Review: A Dissenting View on Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’

As I write this review, encumbered by an embargo that doesn’t allow me to post yet, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood sits at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, beloved by every critic who saw it.

As much as I wanted to love Boyhood and as much as I do love Linklater, I didn’t find the movie as much as a triumph as my esteemed critic colleagues.

First, the positives. The groundbreaking method of filming over 12 years using the same cast really pays off. It’s amazing to watch the children grow, their personalities emerge and yet stay the same, their humanity flowering. The adults are pretty amazing as well. They change physically as well as internally, something you never see on screen to this degree.

I also was impressed by the acting, especially of Patricia Arquette. She has moments of deep despair that feel very real. Ellar Coltrain is good in the leading role, Lorelei Linklater as his sister, and perennial Linklater collaborator Ethan Hawke has his moments as well.

However, it is not enough for me. It seems to be a trend that well-formed characters are lauded as excellent movies, when in reality it takes more than characters to make a story that works.

I had some of the same issues with The Wolf of Wall Street and Inside Llewyn Davis. In these movies, the audience comes to know the characters, yet story is absent.

Boyhood spans 12 years and has vivid characters, yet it’s hard to nail down what the movie is about. What is the conflict? What is the issue that must be resolved?

One might think it to be “Will Mason grow up?” but that’s a bit vague and not really in question. I hope it’s no spoiler to say that Mason does not die in the movie. Time is inevitable and does, indeed, move him into chronological adulthood.

At the outset, I thought the question might be “Will Mason make peace with his absent father?” but that is only a lightly trod theme. The same question applied to the mother applies even less.

I suppose the closest question is “Will Mason come into a sense of himself and the world, will he grow up in some way that matters?” This could be an excellent conflict but I think the film is more interested in just chronicling Mason’s evolution than really examining it.

Perhaps some viewers feel this question is answered. I did not. Mason at the end of the film felt no more in possession of this sense than he did in the beginning. Nor does he reject or fail dramatically. He’s still unformed, the question is still open.

Lack of conflict is no minor thing. It gives framework to a film and the viewer something for which to cheer. I never felt I had an outcome for which to cheer.

Of course, this very looseness is what characterizes a Linklater film, and the very quality that some people find deeply moving.

All I have to say is variety is the spice of life. Different strokes for different folks. And, it’s a free country.

Which leads me to my other major issue with the film. I was not deeply moved. My heart was not touched.

Other critics describe the opposite. They relate on a primal level to this movie.

And that’s ok.

I did not. As much as I found Arquette’s acting to be good, her character did not touch my heart. I wanted her to take more responsibility for her choices, especially moving a series of men through her children’s lives. I wanted a moment of redemption for her and I did not see it. She endures and she works hard and there is much to admire, but I did not see the internal change I wanted to.

My reaction to the film is that Linklater has a very insightful eye and wove some poignant vignettes together into a 2 hour 45 minute movie that never quite arrives at a destination. I found it novel, excellent in many ways, but ultimately lacking.

People who write about movies are a funny lot. I love my colleagues dearly and I am grateful for every one of them. However, we do tend to be uniform. The theater is overwhelmingly populated with white males, many of them in the first half of life. There are notable exceptions, of course. It makes sense that this movie touched so many critics because it connects with their experience.

Even more than demographic sameness, the type of person drawn towards criticism tends to be urban, liberal, and/or progressive, a mindset that I think of as BlueState. I do not say this because I think Boyhood is a political film. It’s not inherently political, although it does have political elements that reflect on the characters. I raise the issue because I think it shows that critics’ nearly universally shared values inform their reactions to movies and therefore the conversation on movies.

I am a white, conservative mother. My perspective is different.

Sometimes I agree with my colleagues. Sometimes I disagree greatly. This is one of those times.

The entire tone of Boyhood rubbed me the wrong way, the very lack of direction bothered me. I saw Mason as one of those Millennials who drifts through life, unconsciously embracing his entitlement attitude, never finding a passion for which to fight or a real problem to overcome. I saw him as one of those kids currently in their parents’ basement, burdened by school loans, still waiting for something to come along and bring meaning to his life. Perhaps it says way too much about me that I wanted to yell “Get a job, stop whining, and cut your hair!”

Not all Millennials are like that, of course, so many joined the military after 9/11 and were happy to serve their country. Others started businesses, raise families, serve others, and find joy in doing so. I’d rather celebrate them.

I only hope that with Mr. Linklater’s next film, I can join the crowd of enthusiastic admirers. Sincere congratulations to him on a near perfect score.

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a lead critic and editor of entertainment at Patheos. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey

  • Josh

    The reviewer seems to care more about the Rotten Tomatoes score they’re about to gleefully taint than the film itself. Half of the review is about critics, while the other half is disappointed that the story doesn’t carry typical theatrical character arcs.

    I find this amusing considering Ms. Cusey’s complete adoration of a much more pretentious iteration of Boyhood–Tree of Life. Tree of Life doesn’t have moments of redemption or people snapping out of anything either, yet she urges people to “give the film a chance” in the review. The fact that she was annoyed that Boyhood film just kept on proceeding without a laser-sharp aim, much as life does, speaks to how she misses the point.

    Well, Ms. Cusey, I hope this gets you the comments and page views that you expect, considering half of what you wrote is about how you disagree with everyone else, instead of discussing the film itself.

    • AlexTheKaiser

      The only reason why people will remember Boyhood for, let’s be real here, 3 months, it’s because of the gimmick of making a film for 12 years.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Hmm… you make some good points and I’m deeply flattered that you know my love for Tree of Life. I was actually going to mention that film in the review, but I thought my post was already long enough, don’t you? Tree of life is extremely meandering, very mystical, and quite dense. But at its heart is a huge, primal conflict. Will a man make peace with his Creator? It’s not an easy movie and it’s very artsy and stylized, but it had a conflict at its core to which I totally related. So that’s a difference.

      I did consider separating the part about the movie from the part about other critics. Then I thought “just say what you have to say.” Being under an unfair and unequal embargo created a situation in which I (and others in my market) watched helplessly as review after review were posted. By the time I could post, it was part of the story.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

        And yes, I’m totally doing this for pageviews and notoriety. Don’t you think if I were in this to troll and get pageviews, y’all would have heard of me before? I’ve been doing this nearly 10 years.

        • Mike

          Hopefully all your reviews don’t hinge on poor reasoning and arguments. Complaining about the film lacking a rigidly defined plot/story is just silly. Just because it doesn’t have a plot summary than be summarised in a sentence it’s by default a lesser film? Do you need the direction Linklater is taking the film to be spoonfed? Also, Mason was never crafted to be likeable champion of the film. The film isn’t about that (his personality) at all, and if that’s another issue you have with it, you’re missing the point.

          Also, thanks for letting me know of your political views. Very relevant stuff there.

          • Anthony Palmerio

            In her defense, this review brought up legitimate points on what are, traditionally, negative aspects of a film. However, many things that would seem negative and wouldn’t work in another film, work here because this film mirrors life so well, unlike any other piece of fiction. Personally, I think Tree of Life carries itself more pretentiously and with grander ethos yet with a similar amount of meandering, and, while its cinematography and visual effects are more inventive, Boyhood’s continuum and evolution of acting, writing, directing and editing (while keeping the storytelling consistent for 12 years) is BY FAR the greater artistic & technical feat. A lot of critics simply can’t understand, from a production side, what goes into writing, acting, editing, (especially directing), etc. because they’ve never actually done it. Richard Linklater not only directed a film, he directed a life. Just for that this film should be a fresh fucking tomato. But, you’re entitled to your opinion of the film, and if that’s truly what motivated you to give it a rotten review, fine. Some critics give rotten reviews to films that made them feel bad just for making them feel bad, when, in fact, it’s harder to make the audience feel bad than it is to make them feel good. I saw the film in the same screening as Diane Keaton and her review was “It was so amazing I wanted to leave at some points” but what she actually meant was that it was so emotionally draining at some points because it was so real that she wanted to leave. But that’s what made the happier parts better. Rotten Tomatoes is just an aggregate of opinions from critics, 90% of whom have no practical experience and overvalue directing, writing and acting and ignore raw effort. At least Academy voters have extensive experience in filmmaking.

            That said, critics SHOULD NOT base their review on other critics. They shouldn’t read other reviews or watch interviews with the cast or director on the film before going to see and review it. A good reviewer has an untainted opinion going into the film and writing their review (up until it’s posted). You clearly do not. This film isn’t perfect but it should remain at 100% Fresh Tomato.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            Thanks for the comment.

            I didn’t base my review on other critics. I – and my entire market in Washington DC – was under an unfair and unequal embargo which hindered me from posting even as everyone else did.

            If I had been free to post at the outset, I would have just posted a rotten score and been done with it. By the time I could post, the 100% was part of the story. I did not change my mind based on other reviews.

            Oh, and as far as reading other reviews or watching interviews, I absolutely agree with you. I never read other reviews because I don’t want those other people to frame my thoughts. I read them after I write, not before. This one was hard to escape. I knew people were praising the film highly but I didn’t read any actual reviews before writing the bulk of mine. So we agree there.

          • Anthony Palmerio

            First, here’s a “simple” “plot” “question” for Boyhood: “How do we retain the innocence and relationships we lose through life, to time?” Now, understandably, this is a pretty abstract concept and it doesn’t specify who it’s about, because, in reality, the question is about Mason, but it’s also about his sister and his dad and his mom (especially) and the Mexican kid that manages the restaurant at the end and the High School girlfriend he leaves and Ellar Coltrane and Lorrelai Linklater and Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette and Richard Linklater but, most importantly, the audience.

            Here’s every line from the article that clearly indicates the bias of your review and its dependence on other critics/reviews/the Tomatometer:

            “As I write this review, encumbered by an embargo that doesn’t allow me to post yet, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood sits at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, beloved by every critic who saw it. As much as I wanted to love Boyhood and as much as I do love Linklater, I didn’t find the movie as much as a triumph as my esteemed critic colleagues.”

            “I was not deeply moved. My heart was not touched. Other critics describe the opposite. They relate on a primal level to this movie. And that’s ok.”

            “People who write about movies are a funny lot. I love my colleagues dearly and I am grateful for every one of them. However, we do tend to be uniform.”

            “It makes sense that this movie touched so many critics because it connects with their experience.”

            “I only hope that with Mr. Linklater’s next film, I can join the crowd of enthusiastic admirers. Sincere congratulations to him on a near perfect score.”

          • PS4PWNS

            You just hit the nail on the head with everything that bothered me with this review. It seems that the actual qualms with the actual movie are minuscule while the author’s real problem is that she wants to prove a point that its not “100% perfect” and thus be different than her colleagues. This is more an analysis on the critics than the movie. But seeing as she gave a fresh rating to movies like Earth to Echo, Fast and Furious, and Oz the Great and Powerful I don’t really trust her judgement in movies.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            Yes. Just because it doesn’t have a plot that can be summarized, it is a lesser film. Very well stated.

            Can a newspaper baron regain the innocence that he lost? – Citizen Kane

            Can a young girl far from home find her way back? – The Wizard of Oz

            Can a German businessman find redemption through saving Jewish victims in the depths of the Holocaust? – Schlindler’s List

            Can two former lovers find a way to love each other in the chaos and desperation of world war? – Casablanca

            Can a man make peace with God? – The Tree of Life

            It doesn’t have to be simple. It doesn’t have to be easy to see. It can be deeply profound or silly but if you can’t sum up a story in a sentence, it’s not really a story.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            And in regards to political views, it is relevant because I am making a plea for varied perspective on film criticism. There should be more women. There should be all ages and generations, and there should be all viewpoints. In critiquing as well as creating film.

            Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

          • Michael English

            Yes, but film criticism should be earned. The entire tone of this article rubbed me the wrong way. I have never read a review so self-centered and narcissistic, let alone meandering and hackneyed. During reading this I wanted to yell out “Quit whining and get an actual job”.

      • Abdullah Talal

        @Rebecca Cusey:disqus Surely you need to reflect upon this. We are not talking about conflicts. We’re talking about how someone grows up naturally. It does not need to have a strong conflict if it has to be a story which reflects reality. How many times have you had conflicts in life that you think are strong enough to be made into an epic film? All films are not supposed to have “superheroes”. Its a film about the life of an ordinary boy.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

          I have had some epic conflicts that would make a great film. But that’s another story.

          Ordinary life is epic. Ordinary people are remarkable. There used to be a guy at CBS News that would do this bit called “Everybody Has a Story” where he’d pick a person from the phone book (we used to have these books with peoples names and numbers before the Internet) and find out their story. And they were always interesting and moving. Because real people do have hurts and problems and triumphs and beauty to life. I would have loved to have seen that. To be fair, I do think that’s what was aimed for but it wasn’t enough for me here.

          Thanks very much for commenting.

          • Michael English

            Yes you require some cliched, overly dramatic plot line. Ugh.

  • MovieJay

    Why does a movie have to have a “conflict” or an “issue to be resolved”? I never understood all the “lines”. Like “character development”. Jack Nicholson was fine in “As Good As It Gets” until he was forced by the screenplay to “change” so that people could say “see! Character Development!”. Blech.

    Isn’t it enough that compelling moments are created and that we may glean wisdom from them?

    I appreciate reading your dissent, though. You’re probably going to be bombarded with nonsensical palaver attacking you and not your words.

    At one point I thought to myself, “This isn’t exactly about boyhood; it’s about the meaning of life.”

    Taking this as an account of an average, white, middle-class American family at the turn of a new millenium, my thoughts kept drifting to what life is really about and how we seem to live in a society where we grow away from the big questions about life and seem to fall into an existence that is all about meeting certain unwritten as well as written markers of success.

    There’s something interesting there underneath teen Mason’s solipsism in that moment when his dad tells him about the sale of his old 1968 Pontiac GTO. It’s working on its own surface level, but beneath it seems to be one of many observations about the state of how we live today, like how just maybe growing up in the western world today seems to revolve more around the idea of scrounging to survive and to make ends meet than it is about truly living.

    There is something buried here about the way we seem to lead unexamined lives in our hurry from one rite of passage to another, clicking them off the way a downhill skier does flags in a race.

    I’m not sure of the movie’s greatness yet, but the more I let it kick around upstairs, the more I seem to appreciate it even if it doesn’t exactly have one big point, or offer any reassurance about life.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      I totally agree with you about letting some movies kick around, digest, before passing judgement. Please let me know if that becomes an insight you’d like to share.

      “My thoughts kept drifting to what life is really about and how we seem to live in a society where we grow away from the big questions about life and seem to fall into an existence that is all about meeting certain unwritten as well as written markers of success.” – YES! That is putting into words something that bothered me about the movie. Thank you. (Not sure if you meant it as a critique of the film so excuse me if I’m misusing your words.)

  • Hungry for Hannibal Podcast

    Sadly we have been exposed to the idea that a story with a main conflict is the only way to engage an audience. The main conflict that you were looking for is something that would be clichéd.

    Mason’s conflicts are the ones we face, big and small as we grow up. This isn’t a movie with an overarching problem to be faced because life isn’t made like that. Instead we get his struggle to find himself.

    When Mason goes off to college, he doesn’t know himself fully because at 18 we have only just begun to ask ourselves the tough questions.

    That is better than most movies will ever give you.

    • AlexTheKaiser

      Then what’s the point? Why am I watching a film about a kid growing up when nothing happens? I could live the same thing if I stayed home or hell, a lot of people submit their personal lifes to YouTube. That’s more genuin that a scrit that goes absolutely nowhere.

      The film doesn’t have a point.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      I hear what you’re saying. I think people who relate to this movie do so for exactly that reason. This is why moviegoing and movie reviewing is a subjective business. I wanted more narrative. I already have real life.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

      • CJ Lack

        Movie reviewing is ultimately a subjective business, sure, but to apply that as a justification for dissent kind of makes the entire process meaningless, doesn’t it? To apply any sort of objective metric to film is asinine, but even moreso is the opposite end of the spectrum which creates a regression of preference and opinion that reduces discourse to, simply, “I liked it because I did.”

        People are perfectly entitled to their own opinions, to be sure. But at the same time — and especially as a film critic — it’s important to apply some degree of objectivity to what the film is doing. You say you “wanted more narrative,” and this might just be poor phrasing, but it doesn’t matter what you wanted; it matters what you -got-. It’s imperative that a film is rated on its own terms — we don’t compare 8 1/2 to Die Hard, nor do we compare Un Chien Andalou to Rugrats in Paris. To make such comparisons simply doesn’t work as it assumes that both are operating on the same level, and by making that assumption, one is getting the shaft. You’re not explicitly comparing Boyhood to anything, sure; but you’re also not examining it on its own terms, and that conflict between expectation and evaluation is where the fault lies — the key isn’t examining what you wanted, but why you didn’t enjoy what you received, and I felt that was definitely lacking in this review.

        However, this says nothing of the latter half of your review, which constitutes preemptively shielding yourself from criticism and applying political rhetoric — that’s tangential at best — to a film that is decidedly not about any of those things. It’s perfectly fine to approach a film from a moral and/or political angle, but throwing such commentary in haphazardly at the end comes across as barrel-scraping.

        Even though I agree with a lot of the other comments here — despite possibly being a bit too snarky in tone — I don’t hold anything against you for this review. Being upset about a RottenTomatoes score is infinitely more obnoxious than simply not enjoying a movie, even if the arguments for such are fairly misguided. And yes, I’m aware not -everyone- cares about ratings, but a massive portion of traffic here is a result of the RT listing, myself included.

        No one can ever make anyone like a movie, and often you’ll get the opposite result by pressing the issue and registering a negative connotation in the other person’s mind. But it’s essential in film criticism that issues stem from what is in the film that’s wrong rather than what isn’t in the film that could have been right. If you order a steak, take a bite, spit it out, and say it’s a bad steak, that’s fine. But if you order a steak, take a bite, spit it out and ask the waiter why it doesn’t taste like Pop Tarts, that’s silly.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

          Ha. Great analogy at the end.

          All I can say is that I totally agree with you and I think my record shows that I do take films on their own merits. X-Men doesn’t have the same standards as, say, the latest from Nicole Holofcener. And not every movie is for everyone.

          That said, even Holofcener (and Linklater) miss the mark sometimes. Clearly I’m in the minority thinking that. That’s ok. I’m even willing to admit I could be wrong. I don’t see it. But stranger things have happened.

      • purehate

        judge a movie for what it is, not what you want it to be.

  • DGR

    Really sorry you weren’t able to be the first “Rotten” review since Matt Pais, whoever that is, beat you to it. As it is, at least you’re in similar company. Reading your review, I wonder how you’re employed as a movie critic at all, seeing as how you admit to dismissing an entire genre of films, that being Character Studies. Boyhood, like the aforementioned Wolf of Wall Street and Inside Llewyn Davis are a part of this category. They aren’t about conflict or solving an overlying issue, they are about the characters or character, therefore they should be judged as such. There is no conflict because there isn’t supposed to be one. True, this isn’t a genre in which you’ll find a lot to choose from, but that doesn’t change that it exists and is growing. I just find it strange that in an art form such as film you would demand structure over substance.

    • Jimmy

      I agree. Sounds like the writer is only interested in “story.” If story is all you’re looking for, there are some great serial dramas on television and some outstanding literature that has been written over the past millennium. Film has always been about more than just “story.” Sadly the generation raised on superheros saving the planet from evil as the biggest box office draws doesn’t seem to realize this.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

        Not “only” interested in story. But interested in story and other things that combine to make a complete whole.

    • AlexTheKaiser

      That’s the problem. This film has absolutely nothing. There’s some character, yes, but nothing else of interest occurs in the film. It’s boring. Even in character study films such as Raging Bull or Taxy Driver or Angst there is something to keep the audience interested. But here? There’s absolutely bugger all.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      This was the problem with having a later embargo date than other critics did. By the time I could post, the universal adoration was part of the story. I could change my mind or go ahead with my original impression. I decided it was more honest to go ahead. I genuinely like Linklater and am glad he’s seeing such success even if it isn’t my type of film.

      • Todd Ford

        I’m not sure how you can say you genuinely like Linklater (assuming you mean his films) when your reasons for disliking Boyhood would naturally extend to all of his films. How do you interpret his “slacker” archetype by the way? And please don’t say all you see is lazy young people sitting back waiting to soak up entitlements.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

          I think he’s very talented. I’ve loved talking with him (in interviews) when I’ve had the chance. I think he puts his finger on something very real. He’s almost like a reporter. But I don’t think the storytelling is there in this case.

          • Guest

            Well, now you have two questions to answer, mine from above and what you think he puts his finger on that’s “very real.”

          • Todd Ford

            Now you have two questions to answer: the one I posed above and what you think Linklater puts his finger on that’s “very real.”

          • Todd Ford

            I still encourage you to respond to my questions. Your answers could be revealing. As the brilliant film critic Robin Wood was fond of saying, a critic’s statement should never final, but simply the beginning of a conversation.

            I think that you are blinded by your ideology to the insights the film has to offer. Allow me to explain: people very naturally (with exceptions) find themselves in one of the two major partisan camps and by that I mean, of course, liberal and conservative. People in one camp view their “side” with understanding and complexity while they view the other “side” in stereotypes (usually subconsciously). You reveal your conservative ideology and stereotypical understanding of liberals with your line about getting a job, stopping the whining, and cutting the hair. You also make remark about lazily expecting entitlements. These are all conservative stereotypes of liberals which aren’t true–or are, at best, partial truths. This rhetoric no better captures or understands liberals than the common liberal stereotypes of racist, greedy, sexist, regressive, and homophobic capture or understand conservatives. The mechanisms for how this situation of people being bound into and blinded by ideological groups is well explained by the book The Righteous Mind.

            I haven’t seen Boyhood yet, so I can’t even begin to evaluate it, although with Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Waking Life, and the Before Trilogy all being among my favorite films I’m pretty sure I will like it. Plus, like Linklater, I’m a liberal and am therefore in tune with him. But, to briefly explain why I expect to identify with Boyhood, allow me to share an excerpt from a Facebook discussion:

            Me: I doubt if she’d like any Linklater film. I also don’t think she understands what a Linklater “slacker” represents. She sees someone who is lazy and wants to sit back and soak up entitlements. I see someone who is fed up with what college has become–job training that results in one being so in debt that one is enslaved by the corporate machine for life–and longs for college days when you actually grew intellectually and learned about yourself and the world.

            Friend: I haven’t seen “Boyhood” yet, but considering that it ends with the main character at age 18, complaints about the character “drifting through life”, “never finding a passion” or having “a real problem to overcome” seem kind of odd. How many people, liberal or conservative, have really “found themselves” when they are 18? It’s perfectly normal to be still drifting at that age. She writes “Get a job, stop whining, and cut your hair!” Funny because I saw him as the opposite. For one thing, he DOES get a job. For another thing, there is no whining. Not anywhere. And there could have been. Cut his hair? Why? Her review was not badly written but to me I think it speaks more about her own upbringing and life than it does the film.

            Me: I’m 52 and am contemplating what my third career should be. I certainly haven’t resolved all of my life’s questions and happily settled in with my answers. At 18, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted. By 26, I’d learned just how wrong I had been. Most young people today are still trying to find a direction well into their 20s like my older daughter and her fiancé. My younger daughter of 18 has it all planned out. She’s the one I worry about.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            I like a lot of what you’re saying and I don’t think we’re so very far apart. Movement and resolution in a story can be minute. It doesn’t have to be trumpeted. I would worry about the daughter who thinks she knows everything too.

            Life has a way of forcing us to grow up. I will respond further. I’m actually checking in during stolen moments as I travel this weekend, hardly my best thinking and pondering time.

          • MARCELO

            Mr. Todd Ford: as you can see in my comment below, posted by Ms. Rebecca Cusey, I couldn’t agree more with you. I mentioned James Agee, Manny Farber, and Andrew Sarris. Thank you for mentioning the remarkable British film critic Robin Wood, another favorite of mine, who passed away a few years ago. Greetings from a cinephile born in Uruguay, South America.

          • Todd Ford

            Greetings right back at you Marcelo. Thank you for mentioning three truly great critics in Agee, Farber, and Sarris. Also, that’s a great litany of international filmmakers in your post. I’m an especially huge fan of Pedro Costa. I’d also add Tsai Ming-liang—a Robin Wood favorite—to the list.

            In terms of his approach to character and narrative, Linklater is one of the very few American directors I’d include alongside the directors you mentioned. He has a truly unique vision. Ms. Cusey’s rejection of his approach to character and narrative is probably due to two things (I’m guessing): she doesn’t spend much time (if any) watching films like The Turin Horse, In Vanda’s Room, or I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone to train her mind in alternatives to classical narrative and neither do her (as a film critic myself, I’ve learned mostly imaginary) intended readers. She states that her primary job as a critic is to say “Yes” or “No” as to whether her readers should spend their time and money. That’s an understandable aim, although I found it frustrating to realize in practice. A newspaper I wrote for frequently told me to stop trying to analyze the movie and just get to the point and tell readers if it would be a good date movie or not. I just don’t operate that way.

            The political comments I was making weren’t intended as criticism of Ms. Cusey. I’m not saying she’s conservative and therefore wrong. I’m not saying I’m liberal and therefore right. I’m saying that a great deal of psychological research has shown that it is quite natural that people find themselves playing for either the Red team or the Blue team, having extreme allegiance to their team, having extreme dislike of the other team (born out of filtered and biased information and a profound misunderstanding of the other team), and being blind to the whole situation. It’s very clear from her word choices that she’s uncomfortable with (if not repulsed by) the ideas and values behind Linklater’s worldview as expressed in Boyhood. This leads her to ask of the film: “Must I like it?” It is then very easy to answer that question in the negative. All films have flaws and one made in the way this one was is bound to have sizable flaws. All she had to do was seize upon a flaw or two and start typing.

            A liberal critic would be predisposed to celebrate Boyhood and would ask a very different question: “Can I like it?” It is, of course, very easy to answer that in the positive. It is all a matter of choosing which to focus on, the film’s triumphs or flaws. (And keep in mind that all masterpieces have flaws including Malick’s masterpiece about boyhood that’s also been bandied about here.)

            I supposed her rejection of Boyhood is similar to my rejection of The Blind Side (or for an even easier and more recent target, God’s Not Dead). I’m so repulsed by the ideas and values behind them that it is virtually impossible for me to see what supporters of those movies see in them.

            Are Blue people and Red people doomed to forever vehemently disagree? Must we forever extend the hatred-filled high school rivalries of our youth into adulthood? I don’t think so. I think conversation that begins with mutual respect and open-mindedness rather than name-calling and assumptions that one side is right and one is wrong is the way to begin. People must begin by realizing that they are playing for a team and that their negative thoughts about the other team are primarily due to prejudice. I’ll illustrate this with a quick anecdote: My daughter played high school soccer. I got to know her teammates very well. They were a great bunch of girls. They also had few good things to say about the girls on rival teams. I stumbled across a Twitter conversation where two girls on a rival team were laughing and cajoling and then suddenly stated that they hate the girls on my daughter’s team. I was taken aback. How can they hate these girls that I know to be good people? Which girls are right? Which are wrong?

            Fortunately, that story had a good ending. Numerous girls from both teams have ended up playing together on a college team. They now see each other as just a bunch of young ladies who love soccer. Maybe the solution to the extreme partisanship we have now is to simply create ways for Blue and Red people to hang out together more.

  • http://www.awardsdaily.com Awardsdaily

    Your review is an interesting take but I think you’re being unfair to Arquette in this way — as in, you’re passing judgment on her and resenting the movie for not falling into that same cliche. She was a young single mother who did the best she could. Those men you talk about? Those are your conservative ideal. She was trying to play by the rules YOU’RE talking about – a husband, a home, a father. Moreover, those guys play the mantra you’re talking about with the boy – get a job, cut your hair. Worked out pretty well, eh? This is a movie about a boy becoming a man. Some of these lives don’t grow in a straight line. This is why we have artists and outsiders who drive creativity.

    This was a story about a person like that who didn’t have a perfect life but had a decent one. He accepted the bible and the gun he got for his birthday. He did not judge. Nor does Linklater, btw. He grew up a fine young man in the face of a culture (Texas) that feels about kids like him as you do. That’s your problem, not his. As to Arquette’s character – she got those kids out when the going got the toughest. That to me is redemption enough. She was a complex character (for once) and an interesting one. To me her moment of redemption came twice – the first time when that gardner tells her she inspired him to go to school, and then when her husband praises her for having done such a good job with her kids – both of whom are in college by the end of the movie.

    Seems to me you are nitpicking a movie you actually liked. If you weren’t touched by it do not blame the movie.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      I really appreciate your comment. Thank you for taking the time to leave something thoughtful and insightful.

      I did like aspects of the movie. That’s what makes this review kind of hard (oh, the woeful life of a critic!). I came away with a respect for it which I hope was somewhat reflected in my review but also a deep dissatisfaction with it.

      I see your points about Arquette’s character. I think Linklater felt the same way about her. In our interview (which I will post in the new week), he talked about her being triumphant. I agree that’s what he was going for, and that ordinary lives can have a great degree of triumph to them. I see that to a degree in her schooling and her endurance and in the moments you mention. But, and this is probably where my worldview perspective comes in, I wanted kind of systemic redemption for/from her and I never saw that. I think a lot of people will think she’s not in need of it. I feel she is, so that’s a viewpoint.

      You’re right that an actor isn’t responsible for what’s in the script. This movie had a very high degree of collaboration, so I’m sure it’s a mix between her and the rest of the cast and Linklater. Clearly, no one in the room felt that was necessary.

      I thought she kind of came off as a sad/hopeless/pitiful character in that last scene where she says she thought there would be more. I wanted there to be more for her. And I think there is more.

      And perhaps that’s the whole point of disagreement right there. I feel in my heart there is more, and perhaps Linklater, et al are saying there isn’t.

  • Doug

    “My reaction to the film is that Linklater has a very insightful eye and wove some poignant vignettes together into a 2 hour 45 minute movie that never quite arrives at a destination.”
    That’s a lot like life, which this movie succeeds in capturing. The only destination we ultimately reach is death. Any ending that would put each of the characters in a poetic “destination”, would’ve been contrived and a complete disservice. Congratulations on failing to “get” the easiest movie to understand in the history of the world. Oh, and congratulations on making this review much more about what others were saying than what you have to say about it. Not that that would’ve made your review any better, because the parts of it that do discuss the film are completely missing the point.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      I got it. I just didn’t think it achieved what it needed to for me. I wish it had.

      Thanks very much for your comment.

      • purehate

        everything you have got to say is so boring.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

          Thank you. I think my children agree.

  • FG

    Wait a sec..you liked Gatsby, Wish I was Here, WALTER MITTY and you didn’t like boyhood?!?!?!? Your reasoning is complete BS too. Explain yourself.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      If I haven’t explained myself in the review, I don’t think the comments will add much.

      Rotten Tomatoes asks you yes or no. I liked Wish I Was Here much more than Walter Mitty. But it doesn’t make that distinction. You’d have to read each review.

      But my basic criteria is if one of my readers, someone in the basic demographic and age range for the movie, asked me if I’d recommend it, would I say yes? Or no?

      • MARCELO

        “I wanted more narrative. I already have a real life”. That doesn’t make any sense. The best art, the best films, are about the cognition of life: the portrait of the world we live in; the struggle of growing up, parenting, working; the influence of the social context in the quality of our existence; human relantionships: the everyday life of ordinary people. You have a reductionist and limited concept of cinema and art. From that sentence, I can think that you don’t care much about the works of contemporary masters, like the Iranian directors Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi, or the Taiwanese Hou Hsiao-hsien and Edward Yang, the Belgium Dardenne brothers, the Portuguese Pedro Costa, or the Hungarian Béla Tarr (I don’t even want to imagine what your review of Tarr’s 7 and a half-hour Sátántangó, or Costa’s Colossal Youth, might be like).
        Your review is full of contradictions, too. You say that you like Linklater’s previous movies (or some of them). But Linklater’s films (with a few exceptions, like The Newton Boys, The School of Rock, or Bernie) are not plot-driven, but character-based. He cares more about the “holly”, small moments, than the artificial, bombastic, Hollywood-y ones. And yet he’s one of the filmmakers that experiments more with structure, time, form, and storytelling in modern cinema. So, I don’t think you might like very much Slacker, Dazed and Confused, the Before trilogy, Tape, Waking Life, or A Scanner Darkly (it’s also contradictory that you want more narrative, but at the same time you say you “love” Malick’s The Tree of Life, a cinematic experiment that has no plot, and a straight narrative).
        There’s also some political prejudice here: “I’m a white, conservative mother”. If you review a film, why the hell should I care about that? Linklater is known for his liberal stance, his progressive ideas (and I relate to that, because I’m a leftist). But he’s a Texan, he knows that conservative state like the back of his hand, and he understands people with different opinions. Critic and filmmaker Gable Klinger points that out in his insightful piece, written for the Canadian magazine CinemaScope:
        http://cinema-scope.com/features/boyhood/ When Mason Jr.’s stepgrandparents give him a Bible and a shotgun for his birthday, most of his colleagues would have approach that scene in an satirical way. But he’s a humanist, not a cynic person. So, he doesn’t mock them.
        It would have been interesting to see an ambivalent (and even a negative) review of Boyhood, based on well-argued ideas and concepts. On the contrary, your ¿piece? is full of arbitrariness (“I don’t like it because bla, bla, bla), prejudice, and contradictions. It’s telling that Rotten Tomatoes included this among the reviews of Boyhood, because it’s such a poor one. In fact, it isn’t real film criticism, at all. James Agee, Manny Farber, and Andrew Sarris -the greatest U.S. film thinkers and theorists of all time- are spinning in their graves.

        • purehate

          you have firmly and cleanly nailed four nails heavy duty nails into ms cusey’s shallow grave

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            Ouch!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

          You bring up a lot of good points.

          I will respond to the scene with the gun-totin’ Texan. Yes, I agree, he did not fall into caricature or scorn. I liked that very much. The main characters weren’t interested in religion or conservatism, but they were willing to be polite. You’ll note I didn’t bring that up as sign that the movie is politically left.

          As you say, he’s a humanist, not a cynic and that is very, very clear and I applaud him.

          It’s more a mindset that pervades the entire film that I see as, for lack of a better phrase, blue-state. That everyone is just trying to figure things out, everyone is just struggling through, and as Arquette’s character says, she thought there would be more (but there’s not). That’s a point of view that is debatable. And he expresses it very well, but I was disturbed by it.

          • MARCELO

            First of all, I appreciate the fact that you included my comment. Thank you.
            But your response confirms my thoughts. I’m not going to debate with you about politics. As you said, you’re a “white, conservative mother”. I’m a humanist, internationalist, socialist. And answering to Arquette’s character devastating phrase towards the end (which makes me remember some films by the Japanese master director Yasujiro Ozu), I think there will be a lot more for people in the future: a better quality of life for human beings from any country, race, sex, religion -or lack of religion-, age, ideology, and so on. (Don’t you think that everyone in this world deserves a better life, including food, housing, education, a job, and healthcare?). But what you’re basically saying here is that you disliked Linklater’s Boyhood because is a “blue-state” movie. If that isn’t a remark full of arbitrariness and prejudice (and even a form of discrimination), I don’t know what it is.
            Even if you disagree with Linklater’s political ideas, you should embrace him as the most humanist U.S. filmmaker working today. I do it, and I’m from a South American country. As Ethan Hawke said in a Q&A recently, “unlike most directors, Rick really likes human beings”. It’s a pity that you (and many people from his own country, like yourself) still don’t get it.

  • TheRobin

    @Rebecca_Cusey:disqus So out of a 1 to 10 rating, what would you give this film?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      That’s a great question. Maybe a 5 or a 6?

      • TheRobin

        That’s actually a huge difference. As you know RT makes the distinction of 60% = Fresh. So, even if you felt that this movie was a 6, that would then mean that it is a “Fresh” or ever-so-slightly positive review. Or is it really the case that you want to be “that gal” that gives it a negative Tomato rating?

        • kevin48

          Not how it works. RT asks reviewers if they liked a film. If 60% of them like a film, it is certified fresh. You are confusing the formula with that of Metacritic.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            I second this.

            They don’t actually give guidance on how to determine fresh or rotten. I go by if someone (who was in the basic target demographic for the movie) asked me if they should spend $12 and an evening watching it, would I say yes or no.

            Pretty basic, but that’s my method.

  • Bart

    “What is the conflict? What is the issue that must be resolved?”

    Who put those on the master check list to merit a positive review? This is a different kind of movie with an extraordinarily different method to its production. It doesn’t follow 3-act structure or the hero’s journey.

    Embrace it’s uniqueness, rather than wait for some kind of contrived conflict-for-the-sake-of-having-conflict.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Well, I guess I put them on my master check list.

      It is unique and extraordinarily different. True. In my book, that’s not quite enough to be the whole shebang. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

      • https://twitter.com/jimjamontheroll ZachSutton

        I am pretty sure you would give Goodfellas a negative review for the same reason. Traditional narrative is not always necessary, see Pulp Fiction, Nashville or Magnolia, sometimes the merit of a film is in it being a unique and/or wonderful experience.

  • R. M

    There is no problem with a differing opinion as all films are subjective of course. But this line is just wrong “The theater is overwhelmingly populated with white males, many of them in the first half of life..” I am assuming that you referred to critics since 52 % of all moviegoers last year were women. That line also presumes that all young white males have all had almost uniform life experiences and relate to same things. The audience score shows the film has universal appeal contradicting that point. I liked the film , I didn’t love it like most people did but I am not going to rationalize why other’s feel that way.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      I was very clumsy in choice of words. I did mean critics, not the overall moviegoing audience. It’s a big divide, of course, as is made clear by the thrashing of Transformers by critics and the $100 million vote of confidence by moviegoers.

      And I sincerely appreciate you affirming the right to have a different opinion. I dislike so much that we’ve gotten to the place where if someone disagrees with me, they must therefore be evil. The most fun conversations I have is with people who I like and respect but who have different opinions.

  • Lauren McGrath

    I actually don’t disagree with much of what’s said here. I enjoyed the movie, but, like Cusey, I can’t honestly say I was moved by it. I appreciate Linklater’s ambition, however, and the film is well worth seeing. But the movie didn’t capture me even as I enjoyed so many of its elements.

    I’m not surprised critics are fawning over it, but Cusey’s argument tying praise for the film to a uniform demographic among critics is downright silly — almost embarrassing in its desire to generalize so callously. My goodness, look at most other movies, and you find deep divisions among this apparently homogenous group. It’s unfortunate that a review that had me nodding in agreement for most of the first two-thirds devolves into pablum for its last third, prompting eye rolls instead.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Yes. You’re probably right. I was trying to, have in the past, and probably will in the future, make a plea for different points of view and for respecting those various viewpoints. I do think my perspective is woefully underrepresented in the world of film criticism. Until very recently, most “film critics” who were conservative were more interested in blasting Hollywood for its alleged sins than actually critiquing movies on their merits. So it’s an issue that is dear to me, but perhaps not very well expressed here.

      • Lauren McGrath

        Fair enough, Rebecca. I appreciate the response. From my perspective, I think you diminish your art by insisting on a political read of movies that aren’t themselves political in nature. I’m not really interested in your take as a conservative mother … I’m interested in your analysis and insights based on your obvious passion for movies and your experience with them. That’s the perspective that matters to me. I get that some movies will speak to you more because you happen to be a conservative mother, but your reviews should transcend that identity, I think. When I’m reading a good review — whether or not I agree with it — I don’t much think about the reviewer’s orientation. I want to focus on the movie. But that’s me.

        And just because I’m curious, what are your favorite movies (past or contemporary)? All best.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

          Hi Lauren,

          I raised the political issue more because of a loss of words to talk about it rather than because I think the movie is political. I don’t think it is, unlike some (Elysium comes to mind). But it does come out of a mindset, I think, that also creates political liberalism. In other words, I think this movie most appeals to those to whom progressivism appeals, as well as probably a certain feeling of transcendence connected to environmentalism, a kind of crunchy-granola vibe, and a sort of unquestioning secularism.

          It’s a certain stream of American thought. It’s obviously made up of individuals, each with their own individuality, but the stream is a certain worldview, a certain perspective.

          And the reason I raise the issue at all is merely to say that obviously there are other perspectives. I think that mindset, the one I”m feebly describing, is overwhelmingly represented in film criticism. I don’t begrudge anyone who writes from their perspective. But I would love to see more serious (if I can call even myself that) film critics who have different voices. I think diversity adds to the conversation.

          Long winded answer. Sorry.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            Favorite movies: The Tree of Life (I have a tattoo on my arm inspired by it). No Country for Old Men. Galaxy Quest (if you go by what I watch again and again). Most but not all of the usuals (Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Dark Knight, Schindler’s List, Godfather, etc)

            If it helps, I LOVED Breaking Bad and the Battlestar Galactica remake too. Like, to an unhealthy degree.

  • Gary_Middleton

    I agree with the film review completely. Given that nothing happens except time lapse photography, being nearly 3 hours probably didn’t help.

    I do not agree with the trashing of millennials.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Thanks for the support. Glad to see there’s one other human being who saw what I saw. (Or didn’t see what I didn’t see!)

      It was not my intent to trash millennials. Just a certain mindset.

  • Seth

    Ms. Tinsel,

    I may not agree with the points you raised concerning Boyhood, especially since I haven’t seen it yet (it’s not out here yet, where I’m from). From what I’ve seen in trailers and in Linklater’s other films, it looks like a masterpiece and I’m bound to love it. But from what I’ve gotten from your review and your comments to your detractor, I wanted to show you my appreciation for your professional, respectful and courteous manner of expressing disagreement. Many critics I disagree with strike me as arrogant or have a poor basis for not liking a movie. You have some valid reasons for not liking Boyhood and they are to be respected.
    Thank you very much for your expressing your opinion professionally. God bless.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      I cannot adequately tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to leave this comment. It is so very encouraging. Thank you.

  • Jeremy

    I’m saying this with no apologies, Ms. Cusey, you are something of a [coot]. Now I don’t give two [poops] about offending you or hurting your feelings, that’s my opinion, take it or leave it.

    Now you say you were disappointment in the films premise, with this I ask, in film does there always have to be something for the characters to overcome?

    In real life there isn’t always a battle or a bad guy to face at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Sometimes people are complacent, even happy with the little seemingly insignificant things and considering that films at the beginning of the 1900′s were nothing more then a 60 second video equivalent to something we’d see today on YouTube I think it goes without saying that movies don’t always have to have the same predictable [sexual relations] premise.

    Now the reason I called you something of a [coot] is because you just don’t get it, you talk like you know [poop] from [urine] but really, you’re just a lousy and very, very boring reviewer who wishes, just like a college girl who agrees to [have sexual relations] on film that people will pay attention to you.

    Boyhood is a movie that’s premise is in the [goshdarn] title, it’s about being a boy, it’s about growing up, it’s about family, it’s about friends, it’s about falling in love for the first time, it’s about BOYHOOD! It’s not about a little boy who’s struggling with cancer or about a boy who just found out his father’s a crazed serial killer — not all [having sexual relations] movies have to be that way either, I know it, the audience knows it and you, as a film reviewer should know it so… I ask you to think carefully about your response, really think about it and don’t give me some snappy response with big words that no one on here really wants to read, give me something real, like an [sexual climax] that you can only receive from someone you love and give a damn about, don’t give me a pity [sexual experience], please Ms. Cusey, [have sexual relations with] me like you love me.

    *Comment edited for obscenities and for my own amusement.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      This whole comment makes me giggle.

  • fwfwf

    You stupid [coot] go kill yourself you idiot

    *Obscenity has been edited partly for taste and partly for my amusement.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Your profound argument has swayed me. Thanks for setting me on the correct path.

  • Dan

    You don’t have to like a movie just because everyone else does. You do, however, need to conjure better arguments to support your opinion in any case.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. So noted.

  • Joel Gardner

    This is a perfect movie and this reviewer saw this as an easy set of extra views for her page. If her points make this a rotten movie then our society would have no good movies. Even toy story 3 would be rotten. The fact that you’re responding to the comments mean you know what you’re doing. This review should be stricken from the rotten tomatoes.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      I loved Toy Story 3, so not sure what you’re getting at there. It’s a fantastic movie.

      Pageviews are not my goal, not in that sense. I give my honest opinion. Since this is presumably your first time reading me, you have no reason to know or think that, but it would be nice to be given credit for good motives.

      I disagree with your pro-censorship stance. Is everything with which you disagree to be stricken from the Internet?

  • Chase

    Someone wasn’t getting enough attention as a critic and needed to be one of two people (allegedly, in the world) with a publicized review on ROTTEN to dislike this film. Hope your boss notices you now. Or your husband. Go pound salt.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      That’s just mean. And not a little bit misogynist.

      Do you tell male critics they’re trying to get their bosses’ or wives’ or lovers’ attention?

      Here’s hoping you’re not married.

      • Chase

        Meant to be: mean. Meant to be: misogynistic.

        Not married. Not legal for me yet.

        And you’re still a moron for this piece. As evident by the responses by every comment left by your haters.

  • Michael S.

    Thanks for the interesting review, and thanks for taking the time to respond to commentators. I disagree with your take on the movie, but not to a degree where I’d feel comfortable indulging in the sort of puerile name-calling other commentators have taken up.

    I think my sharpest disagreements with you rest on (1) your dismissal of the film as having no conflict; (2) that Arquette’s character “came off as a sad/hopeless/pitiful character in that last scene”; and (3) “I wanted there to be more for her. And I think there is more…. and perhaps Linklater, et al are saying there isn’t.”

    (1) I’d argue that the conflict is whether this person can become a hopeful person after a childhood such as this one—absent, almost textbook ne’er-do-well father; mother who marries a succession of lousy men; crap jobs and financial woes. There are plenty of reasons/excuses why this boy could grow up into something other than an admirable young man, but he comes out of it all someone I thought quite well of. [Yes, he has the pseudo-intense philosophizing of a young person, but it seems chained to a good heart and head.] (2) Most of that triumph is due in no small part to the Arquette character, who exudes level-headedness even to, say, the worker in her front yard. She is a profoundly moral character who actually believes there is more. That she has a moment of despair during that empty nest moment does not erase the two-and-a-half hours of resiliency we’ve seen up to that point.

    And, in fact, it is answered by (3) her son’s trip to Big Bend at the film’s end. There is more, and though his more isn’t the one that will assuage her heartbreak, it is enough of a touchstone for us to have faith that that “more” you discuss is there. As it will be for his mom. She bounces back; always has. To artificially force that bounce back into that period of their shared lives would have been to strike a note of falseness.

    Like other commentators, I was curious why you felt the need to mention you’re a conservative mom. I didn’t really see this as particularly leftist. The characters are part of that parcel of casually agnostic non-churchgoers that make up much of the US population, but for all that, our main characters are terribly moral and polite. Not because Linklater is afraid of offending, but because for these characters, when someone gives you something, you appreciate the gesture and what it means. The bit where the kids go shooting is as joyous a realistic demonstration of the fun that can be had with firearms I’ve seen. That the church scene is less appealing has more to do with the kids not having exposure to the rudiments of institutionalized faith and less about critiquing a lifestyle.

    Anyway, I like both this movie and Tree of Life, and I feel there is a core conflict to both. Here it is a very subtle, almost unarticulated one, so gently expressed in the naturalistic arc of the story that it can be tempting to say it is there not at all. But I feel it is. How do you grow up when all your role models are hot messes? How do you form a personality? How do you become a person?

    The answer would seem to be that the good lessons of life can make a difference—mom’s resiliency, dad’s optimism, the demonstrated power of how people in bad situations are able to take action to make life better.

    Thank you again for a thoughtful, thought-provoking review. I disagree, but heck, I disagree with most reviewers save for Anthony Lane. Doesn’t mean anything with regards the film itself. Criticism is all about a dialogue with and about art. Really glad I came across your bit here.

    • Michael S.

      P.S. I do, of course, understand that this is a website about faith and religious values, and that naturally forms the frame of reference you use to talk about the films you discuss. Granted. But I do wonder a little bit if that means you’re less open to, or accidentally blindered to, the more … secular “more” that arrives at the end of the film. That is to say, is your stance vis a vis the role of faith in your life informing your take on this movie? I don’t know that it is, but maybe that’s part of your brief writing for this site.

      Thanks again.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

        Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments and insightful question. I love dialog, as I hope you can tell. You raise a very good question about my faith and how it affects my work and I would like to answer: In every way and not at all.

        I hope that my faith affects everything I do, professionally and personally, by inspiring me to be kind, to care for the outcast and the hurting, to see beauty in brokenness and even more in restoration, to love my neighbor as myself, and to speak truth always and in kindness. I hope that comes through in my approach to culture and my writing.

        By not at all, I mean I do not look for movies to be “Christian” in the sense some conservative Christian writers do. I don’t mind if people swear or have sex or use drugs or beat each other up, if it serves the story and works well. Sometimes I don’t think the theme or point (or in some heavy-handed cases, message) of a movie lines up with my values and if so, I’ll say that. But it doesn’t make me angry. Why should someone who doesn’t share my values make a movie that endorses them? I look for good in films as in people, and find it where many wouldn’t think to look.

        Above all, I try to be professional and to write for everyone, not just those who sit next to me in the pews. I love to have conversation with those who don’t agree with me, love even more to share a beer with those who are different (or a Coke if they’re observant Muslim or abstainers), love to have all types in my home, in short, love the breath and variety of humanity.

        I’ve written more in depth here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk/2012/01/christians-and-movies-recognizing-the-danger-within-not-without/

        and here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk/2012/01/why-christian-culture-should-break-out-of-the-bubble-loving-the-world-through-watching-and-making-movies/

  • JohanNilsenNagel

    I think this reviewer lacks the compassion and understanding necessary to really appreciate a film like this. This is reflected in her statement that she’d rather “celebrate” (i.e. reward) the lives of those who “joined up” and served in the military, or went out got a job and started families over those who haven’t. As though joining the military after 9/11 wasn’t a mistake for many youths who would have become far more whole as human beings by staying out of the military life. If only they’d had the courage and fortitude to drift a little more, not less, through life instead of racing off in a patriotic fervor (a result of personal vanity when it comes down to it) to the closest recruiter.

    Its easy to criticize others who choose a different, non-conforming path through life, especially when their expressions and laments sound like whining or complaining to you, but don’t you see? This is the “conflict” you’re looking for in this film. It’s the conflict of all great coming of age stories in literature, which is “what’s my purpose in life; why am I here”? Sorry, but the way I see it, people who despise these damn, drifting “millennials” (umm, isn’t this really more of a Gen X thing, or, wait a minute, Baby Boomer, or wait . . every generation’s seekers and bohemians and creative types who look for something different and unique out life) are no different than the sorrowful, pathetic husbands Olivia trades through in this film. They are all pissed off and embittered and resentful of Mason’s seemingly blase, slacker attitude (I don’t think it is by the way — it’s normal for his age) because they didn’t have the capacity to give themselves the “luxury” to really find out who they were or what they wanted from life. They got their jobs, or ran away to the military, and started families and conformed . . . and either reap the personal rewards of such decisions (good for them, this is worthy of celebration) or, suffer the consequences — as do all of us who life near or around them. Ultimately, we’re all responsible for ourselves, AND each other. That’s fine if you choose to condone, celebrate and reward the lives of those who conform to your ideals about living a responsible, productive, patriotic family-oriented lifestyle, but by condemning those who don’t you’re just comfortably closing yourself off to a wider, larger universe of possibilities, including inner peace.

    But it sounds like you prefer conflict anyway.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      “As though joining the military after 9/11 wasn’t a mistake for many youths who would have become far more whole as human beings by staying out of the military life. If only they’d had the courage and fortitude to drift a little more, not less, through life instead of racing off in a patriotic fervor (a result of personal vanity when it comes down to it) to the closest recruiter.” Wow. Do you actually know any veterans?

      I’m sure they would object to this characterization. I certainly do.

  • miklaq

    I saw Boyhood Thursday night in the same theater that I saw Tree of Life a couple of years ago. I agree with your review. I completely loved Tree of Life and have seen it at least 6 or 7 more times…if I stumble across it on cable I can’t turn it off. Its so powerful and the cinematography is breathtaking. There are multiple scenes where I find myself relating to the characters…either as a father or as a young boy. It was so emotional that I found myself on the verge of tears many times. There are lines in that movie which give me chills(“He’d sit next to me at the piano and I would criticize the way he turned the page. I made him feel shame.”) and have changed the way I act as a parent. The only time in Boyhood where I really felt moved was the ending when Patricia Arquette says “I thought there would be more than this.” Unfortunately that was the feeling I had when I left the theater. I get it…the movie doesn’t have a plot or a twist or any real conflict. That’s OK…I loved the Sunrise movies and Dazed and Confused. Boyhood is lacking any emotional connection for me. I actually agree 100% with the reviewers 3rd to last paragraph. Maybe because I’m a 45 year old male high school teacher that sees kids like Mason every day. Whiny and lackadaisical. His attitude epitomizes everything that is wrong with the millennial generation. The only time he showed any emotion was when his dad sold the car…and he looked like a spoiled brat in my opinion. Patricia Arquette was so busy making the same mistakes with her choice of men that she never had any real quality time with her kids. The only character in the movie I was interested in was Ethan Hawke as the dad…his was the only character that actually grew during the movie.

    • JohanNilsenNagel

      As though you and your generation (mine) weren’t “whiny and lackadaisical” — come on. Different times, different sets of problems out there and as a teacher, you should be aware of this. Plus, not a whole lot of great role models out there either. Call it the Bush effect, or what you will, but our country’s politicians have misled us into unnecessary wars and conflicts that have set in motion the slow deterioration of the humanitarian values the made out country great. Do you seriously blame this or that “generation” for not caring about you and your future anymore? That you were or weren’t interested in this or that character is another thing altogether, but this is a young boy and teen you’re talking about here — what do you expect? Go watch the whole 7-Up series by Michael Apted documentary for comparison and you’ll see the same, universal traits of youth. Maybe you’re just tired of being around kids all day long, I get it, but adults and their whiny, lackadaisical ways are just as bad, if not worse to listen to.

      • miklaq

        When I was a teenager I worked, bought my own car and then worked my way through college. The generation today is very entitled and very whiny…Ive seen the change over the past 15 years in the classroom. And you are right adults are just as bad in some cases. But I dont think anyone can dispute that Mason was a bit of a baby.
        I suggest you do some research…

        http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/the-millennials-are-coming/

        • Euchrow

          Funny, Mason’s second step-dad reproaches him with exactly the same words. Which more or less proves that you didn’t get the movie.

          • miklaq

            Except I’m not a frustrated alcoholic. I get the movie I just think Mason is kind of a whiny little brat. Maybe that’s what happens when your parents are divorced and your mom makes bad choices. Most kids today are too sensitive and coddled. Thats why we have a nation of kids on psych meds. Spend a week in a classroom and you will understand.

          • Euchrow

            I don’t think Mason is whining the whole time. It’s more about other people always telling him what to do and how to live his life. And when he confronts his dad about the car, he doesn’t act as a spoiled brat. He just tells his dad the he promised to give him the car (a GTO, not some ordinary car) the day he would turn 16. The dad then explains his point of view, Mason shrugs and that’s the end of it, life goes on. What Mason does, is to put a mirror in front of the adults, like in the moment where he tells his mom that ‘we have a family’ when she explains why she married the teacher.. Which is a good thing because a parent also needs to be educated by his or her kids.

            Anyway, every generation will have issues with the way the next generation live their lives. It has always been like that. When you were a kid, I’m sure a lot of older people (including your teacher) also complained that your generation was ‘inferior’ to theirs. But maybe people should accept the fact that one generation isn’t better or worse than another one. They are just different, just like the world they grew up in changed as well.

            And that’s what this movie is all about…

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            Yeah. That guy was a jerk.

            So did his photography teacher, but with more kindness.

            I really liked his photography teacher.

        • JohanNilsenNagel

          Well la-di-da. When I was a teen I was outside playing catch with my father, making up games with friends in the backyard, reading books, traveling as a student to a foreign country while learning a new language, and just plain having fun. Sorry you lost your youth to dull, boring work but you should have known that work would always be there for the rest of your life while your carefree youth would not be — I feel for you and others like you, I really do. We all have to deal with your embittered resentment every day of our lives.

          I’ve done my own research with my own life and found this: No man on his deathbed ever regretted no having spent another day at work.

          As for the character of Mason being a bit of a baby, good, that’s the truth then — aren’t we all a bit of a baby at various points in our lives? I love him all the more for it.

          • miklaq

            Sounds like you had the luxury of not working and having parents that were supportive and affluent enough to support your carefree ways. Unfortuantely I did not. My parents came here from Italy and couldn’t afford for me to travel to foreign countries and ‘just plain have fun’
            Ill bet your parents had money…

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            Don’t you see value in finding a purpose, something to work at and succeed at, something to bring a bit of value to the world, a small legacy to leave behind when your time is over, a way to contribute to civilization?

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

        Bush effect?? Obama effect!! *ducks* <——-THIS IS A JOKE PLEASE DO NOT REPEATEDLY SUGGEST I KILL MYSELF!

        In seriousness, I do think this generation will be forced to grow up one way or another. Every generation has to at some point. I do hope it's not too painful.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Thank you so much for the backup.

      I wanted to like Ethan Hawke too. I liked how he grew and changed. And probably the best scene in the movie for me was when he said he wished the mom had given him space to grow up and become the man she wanted him to be. And then Mason says it would have saved him the parade of drunken assholes (or whatever the exact quote was). I wish there had been more of that in the film. That was the beginning of something real for me.

  • https://twitter.com/jimjamontheroll ZachSutton

    Hahahaha! Even though I am deeply disappointed that this review helped break the perfect rotten tomatoes score of 100%. I thought I was going to live to see the next legendary masterpiece. But, what the heck do I know, you are probably just like one of the critics who gave Citizen Kane a bad review when it first came out.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Hahaha. I love that. That is a world class slam. I applaud you.

      You go on my list of favorite all time reader comments. The first was “Blah to the critic!” apparently condemning me to tasteless foods. The second was “Your awful. You were only hired because your attractive.” Which was kind of sweet.

      But the Citizen Kane thing…stupid AND old? Five star slam there. Seriously.

  • kevin48

    I tend to prioritize authentic characters over story development, because the latter is seems to be table stakes for getting a film produced, and Hollywood seldom has any interest in the former. However, I cannot count the number of films I remember enjoying at the time because of well-drawn characters, but of which I now have no recollection whatsoever. I sure do remember Fight Club, though.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Good point.

  • Trent88

    There is conflict all along the way. Will Mason be caught for spray-painting and live a life as a young delinquent? Will his father turn out to be an alcoholic idiot? Will the family find happiness with the college professor? Will Olivia be able to support the kids? Will Mason succumb to the quotidian temptations of high-school life? But these are the small questions that drive the film. The big one is the biggest question of all the biggest conflict of all: Why are we here? If a movie with “Why are we here” on its mind doesn’t seem big enough to you, something’s wrong. The question is even asked during the course of the film: What’s it all about? What are we doing here? We’re here because we’re here. And our life is our life, that is all. The biggest success we ever achieve may also be the smallest one, but they are all moments to be celebrated, because there’s no way to know when it will all just end. So, celebrate life, the small lives and the big lives, the lives of he famous and the unknown. They all co-existed together in the end. That’s what “Boyhood” leaves me with — Mason’s life is just one life … and in that, it is every life. It has its moments, it has promise … but most importantly, it has Mason in it. The simple fact that he is there, living a life, means observing him can tell us much about ourselves

    I loved this film.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      I’m glad you loved it. I mean that sincerely.

      Life would be boring if we all had to agree.

  • Korver

    You don’t seem to realize that the movie isn’t supposed to have huge conflicts or deeply epic dramatic moments. The movie is about LIFE itself. Yeah, that little thing… This review sucks huge hairy balls.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      And it didn’t even buy me dinner.

      • Todd Ford

        Nice reply. I must say. Of course, how does one respond to such a comment other than with a laugh?

  • Kevin

    It was already at 99% at the time of posting anyway,so despite the effort, you weren’t the first to give it a rotten. That (dis)honor goes to Matt Pais

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      I’m glad.

  • Marco Gonzales

    All in all I think the main qualm that I have for the movie Boyhood is that I simply do not identify with the main character that, and plus the movie doesn’t go anywhere. To me the father’s story was far more interesting and perhaps that would have made a better movie. I think the kid is great but the director failed to give us more insight to this boys wants and his dreams. Constantly throughout the movie I was running into scenes that were not properly introduced like: when did the mom remarry, when did she go broke, when did the kid start ditching class for the darkroom, when did he first become infatuated with his girl friend, first beer, his first compromise to drug use? The answer is these things weren’t shown and they were pretty important information. Instead we got scenes with conversation that just drifts. Someone would argue “but, that’s life it just drifts”, I say no it doesn’t or at least my life doesn’t “just drift”. This should have been better edited. Certain scenes should have been cut, especially a lot of the dry dialog scenes. Yeah I get why people think this movie is genius but I’m not on that boat. The movie wasn’t horrible, it had some fun and funny spots but it lacked a real conflict. Conflict is what life is all about that especially applies to boyhood.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Yes. Thank you.

      I think the director would say that it’s from the point of view of the kid, so things he didn’t notice or focus on were not in the movie. Still, it feels a bit jumpy, right?

  • MH Cressman

    Your pointless and cliche railing against what you believe is a “Millenial” ultimately makes your review worthless. Can you pull any more right-wing media soundbites any harder?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      I went out of my way to not use soundbites but to explain my point of view. If you don’t like my point of view, that’s fine. Thanks for stopping by.

      • MH Cressman

        I just think your deluded, misinformed point of view about Millenials has absolutely no place in your awful review of this film.

  • No

    Why do you even get paid to review films when you clearly have no idea what you’re saying?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      You’d have to ask my boss that one. I seem to have enough people reading who think I do know what I’m saying to merit the paycheck.

  • Jordan

    Rebecca,
    I’m impressed that you take the time to answer all these comments but I am deeply unimpressed with your presumptuous point of view on this film. My biggest issue with your review is that you seem to think that Linklater failed to achieve conflict and resolve with these characters. In my opinion, Boyhood offers one of the most personal and real story’s a filmmaker could ever hope to convey because it actually resembles real life. Like much of Linklaters work this film deals with the concept of time which I think is beautifully addresses in the last scene. Perhaps you should let the film speak to you rather than trying to speak on it’s behalf with clichéd expectations.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      I’m sincerely glad you liked it. I think we’ve found a basic point of disagreement which you’ve stated very well. We don’t have to agree in a civilized society and I appreciate you sharing your viewpoint.

  • http://odgie.wordpress.com Odgie

    This could have been an interesting thread, discussing the merits and shortcomings of an interesting movie with spirited argument. Instead, it was taken over by a gaggle of misfits lobbing middle school-level insults at our host for the unspeakable crime of having some misgivings about a movie that the misfits liked. Every single one of you who has gone after Ms. Cusey on a personal level needs to unplug, get some sun, and grow up.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Thank you.

  • ABC

    [Fork] you!

    *edited for obscenity and amusement.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Thanks for the offer but no.

  • bimsie01

    Sorry Ms Cusey,but being the lone dissenting voice doesn’t make you The Great Debunker.Ms. Kael is long gone,and you are not her.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Whew. Good thing that’s not what I was going for, then.

  • Karol_b

    The review is… awkward (if You like the film and what it does), but I like that the author stands up for herself with smart arguments in the comment section. “Boyhood” is great (imho), but there’s nothing wrong about good critique. Cheers to that!:)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Thanks very much. Cheers to you as well.

  • Aaron

    shocker a femle gave a bad review to a movie about boyhood, get outta here with your feminist bull crap

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      This femle [sic] thinks YOU’RE the one full of bull crap.

  • Bev Wafford Morris

    Reading some of these comments, I find myself perplexed that so many people seem angry that you don’t agree with the mainstream assessment of this film. I thought we were all allowed to our own opinions? This isn’t the USSR circa 1976, is it?

    I, too, would be bothered by this film not having a specific plot. I already grew into adulthood, and I’d be terribly bored to watch a stranger do it. The only reason I’m not bored watching my children do it is that I get to take an active part in guiding them as they grow. I’m emotionally invested in them. It sounds like the film didn’t get you to be emotionally invested in the characters, so I understand why you felt negatively about it.

    Thanks for your review. I think I’ll wait until it’s available on Netflix to see it.

  • Carrots

    I thought the movie was boring and uninspiring and didn’t make me feel the need to reflect upon or discuss any of the issues that were allegedly addressed – not to mention that I never really cared about any of the characters. I didn’t hate it, but I still can’t figure out why it was worth making or watching aside from the method of the 12 year shoot. When it comes to method and result of exploring the evolution of human beings, the 7 Up – 56 Up series does a much, much more interesting job of it. Most of these comments seem to be guilty of what they are accusing the writer of – spending more time criticizing the critic than talking about the strengths of the movie. My friend and I just came from the cinema and are absolutely baffled by the volume and extent of the positive reviews. “Are we missing something?” I’ve been reading reviews to figure out what I’m missing and still can’t find it. If this is a perfect movie, I will be certain to avoid perfect movies in future. Thanks Ms. Cusey for having the guts to speak your truth. It is ours too.

  • not a biased conservative

    Because this came up high on the list of reviews in a google search, I believed for a moment that it was legitimate, but the ideas in it are so basic and frankly unintelligent. How can you call yourself a critic when you can’t appreciate the cinematography, the perfect small details, the beautiful array of shots in the film?

    Your hatred for the main character’s “lack of direction” means that you need the film more than most. You need to understand this generation’s deep questions and problems with shallow consumer capitalist society. It is sad that you couldn’t understand the lesson in tolerance and openness that you were being taught. This is one of the best films about America ever made, and I feel bad for you that you didn’t let it reach you.


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