Richard Linklater’s amazing “Boyhood” opened the 6th annual BAM Cinematek Festival last night in Brooklyn. Yes, I went to Brooklyn to see this movie I’d hear about for years. “Boyhood” was shot in real time with the same actors for a dozen years. It chronicles the life of a family through the eyes of a boy from ages 6 to 18, his school years, and everyone around him. “Boyhood” is quite extraordinary.
In the audience last night: Maggie Gyllenhaal and her director mom Naomi Foner, plus director Julie Taymor, “Foxcatcher” director Bennett Miller, and writer Kristin Gore (Al and Tipper’s lovely daughter).
What’s so special about “Boyhood”? It’s just “life.” Or a gimmick. But Linklater knew he was making his masterpiece, I’m sure, as the filming stopped and started over the years. During that time he made “Bernie” and about 10 other films including “School of Rock,” “Before Midnight,” “Before Sunrise,” and so on. He was just biding his time. The idea of using these actors– Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane and his own daughter, Lorelei Linklater– straight through lends an incredible gravitas to the proceedings. “Boyhood” is funny and sad and poignant.
The story: Arquette and Hawke have the two kids, divorce soon after, and he disappears. When he comes back into the kids’ lives, it’s with good intentions but no career, money, or focus. Hawke’s Mason Sr. is Peter Pan. Meanwhile, Arquette’s Olivia is a struggling single mom with her eye on the prize: a college education and more.
Olivia moves her little family in near her mother in Houston, Texas, and sets off to change their lives. She makes a misstep: a second marriage to a college professor with two kids. For a while their blended family works, then it doesn’t. Again, Olivia and her kids move forward toward independence. On the other end, Mason Sr. remarries and starts a new family to “get it right.” Sound familiar?
It’s an elegant, simple story. There are no big tragedies– this isn’t “The Fault in our Stars.” But you come to care for the characters so quickly that any possible peril any one of them may be in– Linklater throws in some red herrings–makes you worry something bad will happen.
Apparently, “Boyhood” is Linklater’s autobiography. I’ve heard that it’s very close to his own story of growing up in Texas. In that sense, this is for what “Almost Famous” was to Cameron Crowe. You can feel its authenticity. Like that film, “Boyhood” will catch audiences by surprise. It’s a surefire sleeper hit, with loads of awards potential.