Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Best Picture Blitz 2015: Boyhood

Next up on the list of Best Picture nominees: Boyhood.

I've never been a big fan of Richard Linklater's. That's not to say I have anything against him or his movies. I've just never taken the time to digest his oeuvre.

Or his hors d'oeuvres. He can digest those himself.
I'm feeling a bit silly tonight.
So I got to approach Boyhood purely as a film, rather than as an example of the director's style, as I might with a film by Tim Burton or Alfred Hitchock, whose techniques and themes I know well. And it let me concentrate on the novel concept of the movie, which you've surely heard about by now: The story covers 12 years in the life of a young boy and was actually shot over a period of 12 years, so that all the actors age naturally throughout. What a risky idea! I mean, what if - God forbid - someone had died after, say, Year 10? What if the kid had grown up to be unphotogenic?

Spoiler alert: the kid did not grow up to be unphotogenic.

Like, not at all.

Precocious Daughter and I saw this movie well before the Oscar nominations came out, because of the buzz around it. To cut to the chase, we both loved it. I was pretty surprised when it got a Best Picture nod, because to me it felt like a small, personal movie that didn't check the usual Oscar-bait boxes: Not an epic, not a historical drama, not an "issue" movie, not a big star vehicle. I was extremely pleased, but still surprised.

There's not much to say about the plot. A kid grows up. Yeah, that's pretty much it. His mom struggles to raise him (at times by making extremely dicey relationship choices), his dad moves in and out of his life, he discovers girls and drugs and adolescent angst.

What elevates this simple premise, besides the technical challenges of real-time filming, is the storytelling. The acting is uniformly wonderful, especially Ethan Hawke as the dad. I think I was kind of in love with him by the end of it all. And Patricia Arquette's performance is fearless. How many actresses would agree to let viewers watch them age more than a decade - not just the character they're playing, but themselves, wrinkles and all - over the course of less than three hours?

Oh, about that. Boyhood is a long movie: two hours and 46 minutes. But it doesn't feel overlong. It feels enough. Which is how life should feel, right?

Check it out before Oscar night, guys, because this one could take it.

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