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.

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About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a movie critic. Check out her work on Rotten Tomatoes. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey

  • Adam W

    I’d like to congratulate the reviewer for being literally the only personal to allow her own pretence to get in the way of what is a quite astonishing film. Her credibility as a reviewer is at the other end of the “Rotten Tomatoes Scale.”

  • Adam W

    White and conservative should have given us all a hint. If there is nothing to blow up or kill then it isn’t worth the effort.

  • Mauricio

    Haven’t seen the film so I can’t have an opinion. But if you don’t agree with this review and think the film is perfect then why does it matter if it has a 100% tomatometer or 70% or 35%? What is everyone so mad about?

  • Clayton Bigsby

    I think a person above said it best: Can a boy save his innocence and relationships from the ever flowing river of time?

    What this movie is known for is it’s unique production, filming the character over the course of x years. The director used this and created this because that is the story he was looking to tell: How does time effect this child? How does time effect us all?

    It can be summed up in one sentence. I think you just missed the point. And by referencing so many other critics and reviewers throughout your piece, it made me think you went into this film with high expectations and searched for deeper content. “You can’t see the forest for the trees.”

  • Clayton Bigsby

    Wut.

    Look at literary and film classics and see if they all told the story from different viewpoints.

    The story is focused on a boy. The name of the film is Boyhood. You include viewpoints relative to the story, not to be politically correct. I don’t know how more viewpoints would have added to the film’s content and story.

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

    Varied viewpoints in film criticism. I’m not calling for varied viewpoints within the film. I think you misunderstood.

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

    Well at least you’re self-aware.

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

    Great question.

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

    Um, thanks?

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

    “It is sad that you couldn’t understand the lesson in tolerance and openness that you were being taught.” – You see the irony in saying that while at the same time calling my review illegitimate just because I don’t agree with mainstream and your personal thinking, right?

    Tolerance only counts when it’s applied to those different than oneself. Otherwise, it’s just group-think agreement, which is kind of the opposite of tolerance.

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

    Thank you so much for taking the time to leave the comment. I’m very glad I’m not the only one.

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

    “I thought we were all allowed to our own opinions? This isn’t the USSR circa 1976, is it?” – An issue near and dear to my heart. I’m not sure we all believe in free speech anymore, to our certain detriment as a country.

    Thanks for the comment.

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

    So noted. I’ll be sure to run future columns by you for approval before publishing them.

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

    So here’s the thing. If we can’t talk about movies without belittling each other, how the hell are we supposed to talk about taxes, war, immigration, healthcare, etc?

    If you bothered to read anything of mine, you wouldn’t think that I only like blowing up or killing, but you put me in a group and scorned that group and that’s that.

    I don’t scorn those who disagree with me on this or any other movie. I’d appreciate, but don’t necessarily expect, the same respect.

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

    I’ve earned my place over years and lots of hard work.

    I do find it very interesting you call the review self-centered. I usually try to leave first person pronouns out of my reviews and wrote this one very differently than I usually do. I agree that I’m not the story here. Maybe it is a little subpar in that sense. I believe that, were you to read my other reviews, you would not find them that way.

  • bpollen8

    Brave review on a a “join the crowd and cheer” set of reviews by almost exclusively male reviewers. I couldn’t agree with you more. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good. It was better than some, worse than others. It was a so-so film. Gimmicky, IMO.

  • bpollen8

    “Astonishing”? You must be a kid. Watch the documentary 7-Up and get back with us. That’s real life and how to show boys growing up. This 12 year thing is gimmicky, IMO. But then, you’re a guy who thinks it’s astonishing because it’s a movie about, what else, a guy! And HIS mother! And HIS father! And HIS sisters! In other words, it’s about HIMSELF! What else matters, right? No need for a plot or clever dialogue.

  • bpollen8

    The review was actually stating the movie was mediocre. The only hatred being spewed is by yourself.

  • bpollen8

    I’m sure the Taliban would agree with you, Aaron. A movie worshipping males should be reviewed only by males. In fact, there should be only male reviewers, and only movies about males, right?

  • bpollen8

    Did you notice the anger and hatred and juvenile comments are only by males? For a female daring to question the magnificence of a movie about males.

  • Todd Ford

    This film–aided by this review–is like a petri dish for studying partisanship in America. The film has received positive reviews, overwhelmingly. This review drops in and disturbs the party. Film critics are by and large left-leaning people. This critic explicitly states she is right-leaning and was bothered by the very things that other critics have been celebrating. This is all to be expected though simply on the basis of ideology. Linklater is a lefty. Lefty critics are going to be pre-disposed to like this film and to look for reasons to like it while ignoring reasons to not like it. Righty critics–seemingly few in number–are going to ask entirely different questions of it, looking for reasons to not like it while ignoring reasons to like it.

    One has to ask this question: Which side is seeing the greatest amount of what the film does well while ignoring the least amount of what it doesn’t do well? After all, all films, including masterpieces, are a mixture of both.

    Lefty critics are well-known for being tough critics. 99% positive reviews is extremely rare. My inclination is to feel that this critic, in this case, possibly to make a point, has let her ideology get in the way of truly and fully seeing the film. I guess time will tell though. The true test of greatness is time. History is littered with films that were praised and Oscar sanctified only to be forgotten in two years. History is also cluttered with films that were rejected initially only to be re-evaluated and regarded as masterpieces decades later.

  • Todd Ford

    Obviously you didn’t read many of the reviews, and don’t read many reviews in general. These are a very independently minded group of people who have very strong opinions and little regard for what their peers are writing. There are also 25 women among the reviewers (not counting a few where I couldn’t determine the gender for sure). That’s actually a pretty solid subset in this game. The only thing gimmicky about the 12-year-filming concept is how the media has made too much of it. It was a very valid, near-revolutionary, and quite courageous approach to telling the story. I say near-revolutionary because the adventures of Antoine Doinel and the story of Jesse and Celine are essentially the same.

  • Matt

    Ms. Cusey,

    I live in New Jersey so I haven’t made the trek upward to see this movie. I’m currently a critic for a budding site that may actually eventually be rotten tomatoes certified. As I saw the hate you got for being the 2nd rotten review for Rotten Tomatoes, I looked at your profile and saw that you agree with the Tomatometer about 70% of the time, a decent number. It’s not fair that because you disagree with the acclaimed nature of a film, that you have to be picked at by internet trolls who would never say this to your face. I liked Amazing Spider-Man 2 as well, even though the public hated it. I didn’t like The Master or Les Miserables, but I still get to make money and live out a very nice hobby as a critic. So, don’t feel the need to fire back at these people. I bet you’ll enjoy 9 out of the remaining 9 2015 Best Picture nominations, and your criticism is always welcome because that is what the First Ammendment allows you to do. Keep on keepin on.

  • Rick

    Only if you’re good at it.

  • TerryLee

    Don’t worry guys, “Boyhood” still has 100% under the “Top Critics” category. So Becca’s little attention-seeking review didn’t have the full effect she probably wanted (minus all the page views – good job!), since, thankfully, RottenTomatoes doesn’t consider an untalented, bored housewife writing self-indulgent reviews on a website no one had heard about prior to the review, a “top critic”.

  • Laura Post

    It’s difficult to give credence to the one negative review out of hundreds of positives; it’s impossible to do so when the reviewer has actually berated and insulted those commenters who disagree with her. No matter how vile the comment, a confident, professional journalist would never tell a reader that they’re “full of bull crap”. This feels to me like a review that was written strictly to drive traffic to the site, and while you probably imagined yourself as being lauded for being “brave” enough to dissent from the masses, you’ve just come off as unprofessional, childish and thin-skinned.

  • vjones

    Armond? Is that you?

  • Todd Ford

    What she is learning and you will too Matt is if you can’t stand the heat, get outa Dodge. Or some such mixed metaphor. Either she knew she was going to get beat up for this or she’s awfully naive. I’m guessing she’s the former. You’re probably the latter since you posted this comment.

  • utah

    this may sound hateful but it’s what I can gather, this reviewer is likely some part of a traditional christian church, doesn’t like obama (or left wing politics or whatever), and has never taken mushrooms.

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

    Hmmm… I do like lots of films that differ from me in ideology. Maybe it’s more fair to say that is one of the reasons it didn’t sit right with me. But I think the lack of story is the bigger reason.

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

    Thank you, Todd. I completely agree.

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

    I truly don’t think I’ve berated and insulted anyone. If I were thin skinned as you say, I’d be in a different line of work.

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

    Todd, I really think you and I could have a great discussion. And perhaps are. Thank you for being so level-headed. I appreciate the respect, even though we disagree in this one instance.

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

    Apparently, this is not ok for me to say, according to another commenter, but I take issue with the blanket dismissal of my viewpoint because I’m a woman. Sexism is bullcrap. So that’s how I call it.

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

    Haha. That guy is kinda crazy. Thank God for unique voices, though.

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

    It must be misogynist night or something.

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

    Thank you so much Matt. I really appreciate the encouragement.

    And yes, the First Amendment is so important. If we don’t use it, we might lose it and the trolls will win. Not going to happen on my watch.

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

    I knew I was going to get beat up. I thought about whether I wanted the grief, honestly.

    I know this will sound weird and people will doubt it, but it was an issue of integrity to go ahead and post my true reaction knowing that there would be pushback.

    The other thing that bugs me is that I would like the chance to talk to Mr. Linklater again and hope he’ll be generous in his reaction.

    So, yes, there were thoughts to not post, but they all felt wrong ultimately.

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

    Thanks so much for the encouragement.

  • MARCELO

    Thank you for you answer, Mr. Ford. I agree with your thoughts about Linklater, who has been praised by most U.S. contemporary critics I respect and admire, like Andrew Sarris, Dave Kehr, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Jim Hoberman, Kent Jones, Amy Taubin, Manohla Dargis, A.O. Scott, Roger Ebert, and even the Marxist critic David Walsh, the Arts Editor of the World Socialist Web Site (Walsh’s last book, The Sky Between the Leaves, which I deeply recommend, includes an interview with Robin Wood, in which he mentioned Linklater among his favorite young directors). But Linklater has remained an independent, an outsider from Hollywood. That’s why the Academy has always ignored him (the fact that he hasn’t even been nominated as best director is preposterous), the distribution system has made it almost impossible to see some of his latest films (Fast Food Nation, A Scanner Darkly, Me and Orson Welles), and therefore, many of his works have done very poorly at the box office (with some exceptions, like The School of Rock, probably his only mainstream success). I wished his movies had a more political savvy, like Slacker, and the remarkable and painfully underrated The Newton Boys. But still, he’s probably the most humane and creative U.S. filmmaker working today. Unlike most of his self-absorbed and self-indulgent colleagues, he seems to like human beings, he cares about his characters, and pays attention to the everyday life of ordinary people (while others, more famous directors, like Tarantino or David Fincher, care more about bloodbaths, the show off, the bombastic, and even worse, a sort of celebration of violence, revenge and torture). Linklater has also a novelistic approach to cinema, like Hou Hsiao-hsien, Edward Yang (some people have compared Boyhood with A Brighter Summer Day, and Yi Yi), Jia Zhang-ke, and the great Terence Davies. And as Manohla Dargis wrote in her beautiful review for The New York Times, Linklater has become a real poet of intimacy.
    Regarding Ms. Rebecca Cusey’s review, with all due respect, it’s not just her lack of well-argued ideas, the arbitrariness, and the contradictions that bothered me. (Like I wrote before, if she only likes films with a plot or a straight narrative, I don’t even want to imagine what she might think and write about Pedro Costa’s Colossal Youth, Béla Tarr’s Sátántagó, or any film by Tsai Ming-liang, as you pointed out). The most striking thing to me is her prejudice, the “I’m a white, conservative mother” thing (what has that to do with film criticism, for crying out loud?). In her response to my comment, she almost said that she didn’t like Boyhood because it’s a “blue-state movie”. It’s true that there is no such thing as an “objective” opinion. Any review reflects the vision of the world of the critic or the filmgoer. But ideology can’t be a blinder to recognize the values of a film or any other work of art. I’m a leftist, and yet I’m able to see the brilliance of a pretty reactionary filmmaker, like Alexander Sokurov, or a right-winger writer, like Jorge Luis Borges. You should be able to dismiss a movie you may agree with politically, and at the same time, embrace something with a different point of view than yours. It’s a basic matter of intellectual honesty. Nothing less, nothing more.
    Nice to share opinions with you.

  • abc123

    “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.”

    Why did you come to believe this Rebecca? I don’t mean to be offensive but how does that not seem immensely silly to you? It seems almost like common sense to me that the definition of a story cannot be so narrowly defined and that every legitimate story being able to be summated in one sentence is ridiculous.

    It reminds me of this part of your review

    “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.”

    Why is the film’s failure to answer a question you have personally imagined and assigned to it cause for a bad review? Of course critics are going to interpret texts and assign perceived meaning to it, yet obviously Boyhood is not aiming to examine a conflict like the one you put forward, and punishing it for being something it’s not (and didn’t intend to be) seems cruel.

  • http://www.soundonsight.org/author/colin-biggs/ Colin Biggs

    Films don’t need to agree with your perspective. You can not embrace that perspective, but that doesn’t make it a flaw.

  • Todd Ford

    Actually, what I wrote contains arguments for things I didn’t intend. I wrote that critics are by and large lefties and that Linklater is also a lefty (although I feel he has a much broader affinity for all of humanity than too many lefties) and therefore these critics are predisposed to liking his film. This is hardly a vote of confidence in the validity of their reviews. It is also very much like a plea for more conservative voices in film criticism to balance things out. I didn’t intend those things, but I do agree with them, grudgingly the former, especially the latter.

    Something I also wonder about is: Why are there so few conservative filmmakers? I’ve always assumed it’s something like anyone who’s conservative (fiscally anyway) is not going to take the financial risk of making a movie, especially a documentary movie. But, all of movie history is like a story of liberals with cameras, probably something that attracts me to the cinema so deeply. This causes a problem for me though. I’m on the selection committee for our film society in Bismarck, ND (yeah, we’re a few of liberals nestled within a very conservative town) and we frequently show documentaries, almost exclusively left-leaning. Some of our patrons complain that we shouldn’t show lefty documentaries or we should at least balance them out with righty ones. We just shrug our shoulders though because we aren’t picking lefty docs to rub people the wrong way, we pick them because those just happen to be the only docs being made that have artistic value. Maybe you could suggest a few.

    Anyway, back to what I didn’t intend. I wrote that films often change dramatically in esteem over the years and some highly praised and Oscar awarded films go MIA within a year or two. For instance, who watches The English Patient or Dances With Wolves or Gandhi these days? And there have also been films that’ve gone from rejects to highly regarded. Who would’ve thunk that a film originally dubbed “just another Hitchcock and bull story” would eventually be dubbed the greatest film ever made by Sight & Sound critics? Boyhood is highly praised over the moon right now and seems destined to play a role in next year’s Oscars. It seems it can only go downhill from here. I hope not.

  • Laura Post

    Let me rephrase this in a way that you can’t misinterpret: your sarcastic responses to negative commenters make you look unprofessional and petty. (Example: “It must be misogynist night or something” – if you absolutely can’t keep yourself from responding, at least be smart in your response; someone calling you a housewife doesn’t make them misogynistic). If I were the one “critic” that didn’t like a universally well-liked film, and wanted people to know that despite that fact, they should take me seriously, this is not how I would react. At any rate, you seem much more interested in your own opinion than anyone else’s, so I’m sure I’ve just wasted a little more of my time. Good luck.

  • http://www.mezzymusic.com/ Mezzy Music

    I saw the movie today. I enjoyed it. I didn’t think it was phenomenal but overall it was a good movie. I think the first half of your review I kind of agree with. You actually talk about the merits of the film, and what could have been done better.

    Then in the second half of the review, there is a sudden shift, and you really reveal what tipped you into the rotten category. You disagree with the film for political reasons (and you have the right to do so.)

    You go into a diatribe complaining about the journey of the main character, how he is an entitled millennial who should get a haircut and a job.

    These issues were addressed in the film but they seemed to fly over your head. He did find a passion: photography. His hair looked nice when it was the way he wanted to wear it… He didn’t want drunk authority figures oppressively regulating arbitrary issues such as his hair length. He did find a decent job where he was offered a promotion. All these issues were addressed and resolved, and in many ways the conflict of “Will Mason grow up in a meaninful way?” was successfully resovled. But this is America and you are entitled to your opinion.

    I will say in your defense that I read your article in the Federalist and you gave a much more nuanced account of why you didn’t like the movie examining details of the plot and character development, such as why didn’t the kids get a well-deserved apology and why wasn’t Mason more of a rebel? I related to that article much more than I did this one and I actually agree with you that the movie could have been improved upon.

  • glenn millican

    I’ve seen the movie three times now, and I’ve noticed something interesting along the way. In the beginning, before all the rave reviews came out, the audiences seemed far more excited by the film. At the end, the applause was loud, and the comments in the lobby were decidedly enthusiastic and positive. The other night, after my third viewing, most people still loved it, but I was hearing more negative comments about some of the acting and the story lacking a traditional arc, etc. I think when a movie gets this kind of glowing buzz and a 100% rating on rottentomatoes, audiences go into it with huge expectations, and they tend to be more critical when they spot imperfections. I’m lucky, because the first time I saw “Boyhood,” I didn’t even know what it was about. I just went along with a friend. So, it was all a surprise to me, and I just loved it. Sure, I saw the flaws, but I’ve also made a short film of my own, and I know how friggin’ hard it is to make a ten-minute movie that was shot in three days, let alone a major motion picture that took twelve years to shoot. Kudos to everyone involved with “Boyhood.” It’s a fascinating film and a stunning and ambitious achievement–flaws and all.

  • GhostSnowchun24

    Well said man…and I loved Boyhood heheh. Plus I don’t care if Boyhood wins or gets ignored for an Oscar. I pretty much think the Academy Awards vote have been “goofy” since Crash won best picture in 2005 over Good Night and Good Luck.

    For me, a late 30′s multi-ethnic male, sort of apolitical past the local level, that grew up just fine (along with my 10 years younger sister) with parents still lovingly married to this day, Linklater’s Boyhood still hit all the right time capsule notes of my life experiences. Just like Dazed & Confused did for me in my junior year of high school in ’93, and his Before Series did from my early 20′s to late 30′s.

  • Todd Ford

    Thanks for the comment kenchun24. Yeah, Crash was a puzzler. Of course, Oscar has had many such puzzlers over the years. Chariots of Fire over Atlantic City was my first big disappointment. (Actually, it was Annie Hall over Star Wars, but I was just a teen and soon got over it.)

    Getting back to Boyhood: I think a viewer and a director can sometimes be in perfect sync. The ideas Linklater explores in Slacker and Waking Life are ideas that occupy my mind as well, pretty much constantly. I was a high school freshman in 1976, so, yeah, the freshmen in Dazed and Confused are me. Linklater got every detail right in that movie and he even paid homage to Hitchcock’s Family Plot on a drive-in marquee, a movie I saw at a drive-in with my aunt that year, and the dad who breaks up the keg party is a dead-ringer for my dad at the time.

    I haven’t seen Boyhood yet because of the slow release roll-out, but I will have a different sort of connection to it. My younger daughter went to high school during the very same years that Mason does. I look forward to watching it with her and discussing how well it relates to her experience of those years along with my experience of her experience of those years.

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

    Why is that hateful?

    You’re right on all three counts.

    (And thanks for distinguishing between disliking a person and disagreeing with his political positions. Important distinction to me.)

    But most interested in why you’d preface with “This may sound hateful, but..”

  • Cote

    Finally a reviewer that looks at this movie clearly. After reading the comments, I realized that I also compared this movie to the Tree of Life because it does seem to relate in some way to the mystery of life. Boyhood’s strength is perhaps that it illuminates this to us by constantly exhibiting Mason’s confusion about life. The movie does meander and when I compare it to Tree of Life, I find that it lacks artistic elements. I prefer a movie that uses the visual images as a way of expressing ideas. Watching someone grow old just doesn’t cut it for me. And yes, plot matters. There were too many directions this movie could have taken that would have been more interesting. It was as if the novelty of filming over 12 years was the most important idea for Linklater.

  • http://www.mezzymusic.com/ Mezzy Music

    He’s right though, so you probably should. You shouldn’t engage in generational warfare.

  • MH Cressman

    I’m glad, because they’re terrible clickbait pieces of tripe otherwise. And just so you know, you’re absolutely and unequivocally wrong about Millenials and it makes you look extremely foolish.

  • Genuine article

    The question of the movie, in my estimation, is whether, and how Mason arrives at late adolescence and early adulthood intact, despite inconsistent parenting, family upheaval, and some personal drifting that is the hallmark of any middle class adolescence. There is no real conclusion to this film, just a punctuation mark, that Mason has arrived at college with what is clearly a sense of himself, beyond what came before.

    I challenge Ms. Cusey to assert and defend that she had more of a sense of herself in the world at an analogous time in her life, and that her sense of herself was static, not malleable. Regardless, applying such a metric to this film is pointless, and it misses the point. I feel that she is applying criteria to judge this film that are rather archaic. I think the things she appreciates about the film are accurate, and there’s nothing wrong with expecting more from a film that clearly defies conventions and categorization, but I would have liked to have seen a more reasoned discussion of merits and flaws.

  • Scott Reed

    The thing is, Rebecca, this movie is about real life. And, in real life, people don’t always come to those nice little “movie moments” of self-reflection. Single mothers who bring a string of men in and out of their children’s lives do not see anything wrong with their actions.

    they know men are important, especially to young boys, and they want to bring that “right” guy into the house. A man that can help their son become a man. Each successive choice is oddly related to recognizing how the last choice was wrong and trying to rectify that choice with what ends up, more often than not, being a bad choice.

    People in these situations do not have nice little movie style epiphanies… they simply struggle through each day and keep, as you said, persevering. That is something that is often difficult for films to convey for, well, the very reason we are having this discussion. In general, critics and audiences like “Hollywood moments.”

    I for one like this concept. This is the first non-big-budget film I have actually looked forward to since 2008 (The Wrestler). Interestingly enough, while the lead in that move attempted to have a groundbreaking moment, in the end, he simply continued making choices as he always had; emotion and real feelings were difficult for him. We never get to find out the result of his last high-flying move inside the ring.

    This movie does not open until this week. Probably the reason I am looking forward to this movie is that it will combine the chronicle of not only my boyhood memories, but memories of my sons (now 25 and 22) growing up in this world. That pillow used as the “barrier” in the trailer? My sons had that exact same pillow and I think I still have it in storage somewhere.

    This film looks to resonate with reality rather than trying to preach at us about what the writer/director thinks is “right.”

  • Derek

    Please don’t write another review again, thanks. -World

  • SteveGreen19

    I like the part where Rebecca thinks that Man of Steel was a good film. Congrats, sister, you got me to navigate to patheos.com, hope you’re getting commission.

    P.S You also stated that you didn’t get the Great Gatsby until you saw the 2013 version, but then never explain whether that was due to illiteracy or something else that the movie portrays differently than the previous version or the actual book.

  • GhostSnowchun24

    “I think a viewer and a director can sometimes be in perfect sync.”

    Totally, I sync with Link – later. I haven’t seen Slacker in awhile, but I’ve seen pretty much all his stuff. Own the Before series, Waking Life, D&C, School of Rock, A Scanner Darkly etc…

    You were a freshman in high school in ’76, that’s the year I was born, but my “Gen X” self still easily rode along with Linklater’s characters in Dazed & Confused 17 years later. Hope you and your daughter enjoy watching his latest effort together!

  • Chase

    Are you?!? That you are a horrid critic?! Or do you need more of us to make you self-aware.

    Or are you in denial?

  • Susan

    You gave this movie a bad review so you’d get some attention! Your review shouldn’t even count you fake wannabe writer! You are so out of touch with humanity and the aesthetic of cinema. You aren’t even qualified to write a review because you clearly don’t have a sense of human emotion or appreciation for a film that someone worked very hard on and did an amazing job putting it together! Just quit

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

    You’re absolutely correct about some films being the flavor of the month and not standing the test of time. It’s part of what makes this so fascinating.

    I totally agree with you about the lack of conservatives making good movies. They make crappy movies occasionally, but good ones with any conservative viewpoint are few and far between. Any movie that puts message first is crappy, liberal or conservative.

    I think there are systemic issues, both within Hollywood and within conservative thinking that means fewer conservatives end up with a meaningful career in film. I just think driven, talented conservatives would be less likely to spend the time kicking around LA, working in the bowels of the industry, focused on art, and living in poverty that success in the field often requires. I’m not crying oppression as so many conservatives do.

    What did you think of Waiting for Superman? That doc made me cry and it was in some ways conservative, although I think the issue kind of transcends the parties.

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

    You seem angry.

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

    I have a lot of snarky answers going through my head, but I think I’ll answer straight.

    It probably was that I was in a different point in life when I read it. I always identified with Daisy before and watching this movie, I saw what a horrible person she is. So the whole thing shifted for me. It was quite true to the book, if I recall right.

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

    So when you talk to real people, they say things like “My mother’s death was really hard, but I realized that time is precious.” or “One day I woke up and realized that I wasn’t going to find an answer in men.” or “I fell in love and realized that I needed to get my act together for her.”

    People have epiphanies all the time. ALL THE TIME. Moments or realizations that change the course of life. Moments that shine meaning on the past. Moments that heal the past.

    That’s funny about the pillow. When I talked to Linklater, he called this “a period piece filmed in real time.” So the pillow was actually the pillow that a kid would have had. Not a recreation or something found in an antique store (which, I always think, are the things people DIDN’T use or like, which is why they survived). So that’s the strength of the movie, that nostalgia/authenticity factor.

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

    I did have a sense of myself then, probably too much so. Probably less now.

    But the question, if it was the question of the film, wasn’t answered. It could have been resolved in the negative. It just…ended, as you say, with a punctuation point. Not a resolution.

  • Todd Ford

    I imagine that your interest in dealing with these comments is fading fast. This whole thing must seem so last week by now and that it’s time to move on. But a few things have been nagging me:

    Of course you have the right to write a negative review if that was your reaction, and you do provide a sound explanation for your reaction. I wonder though why you chose to defensively include this string of clichés: “All I have to say is variety is the spice of life. Different strokes for different folks. And, it’s a free country.” It is an oddly inserted paragraph that doesn’t do your argument any favors and, to use one of your own words, it frankly sounds whiny. And your closing words–”sincere congratulations to him on a near perfect score”–sound just too much like celebration. Whether or not it was the case, it is hard to come away from these final lingering words without thinking your entire purpose was to give Linklater a smack-down. They’re obvious fighting words aimed at Linklater fans.

    Another thing nagging me is that I really don’t think you have given the ideas Linklater explores much thought. All you really attribute to him in your review is that he’s a liberal who likes to make films that loosely wander about without arriving at any of the usual moments associated with classical Hollywood narrative. That’s a somewhat fair, but very limited assessment. In a comment you mention that “he puts his finger on something very real,” but I’ve asked you twice (counting this, thrice) to explain what this very real something is and you haven’t responded yet. I therefore accuse you of creating a “straw man” Linklater in your review–and probably in your mind–to easily smack down.

    One final nagging thing: You were asked to list your favorite movies. It’s a common enough question posed to film critics and the responses are always revealing. You started off well by listing The Tree of Life (also on my list although I suspect we admire it for quite different reasons), No Country for Old Men, and the delightful (and seldom listed) Galaxy Quest. But then it goes downhill as you list “the usuals” Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Dark Knight, Schindler’s List, Godfather, etc. Now, I don’t say it goes downhill because I think those are bad choices. They’re almost all worthy choices. But they don’t sound like a film critic talking. It’s a list that any young film enthusiast might spin out after a year of watching movies from the Internet Movie Database top 100. There’s nothing on the list that indicates a breadth of knowledge or a depth of passion for cinema. And worse, in terms of being able to grapple with a director like Linklater, other than Tree of Life there is nothing that indicates experience with alternative approaches to character or narrative. Film critics salivate at these opportunities to list passionate personal favorites. Why you chose to simply trot out a list of “the usuals” is a bit worrisome.

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

    You’re right that I’m tired of responding to the same comments over and over, plus I have other work to do.

    Ok. The “something very real” that Linklater hits is the feeling of being a kid and seeing things you don’t quite get and trying to make sense of it. Also the moments of sadness, even close to despair we all have. He is a keen observer and translates his observations expertly. Some moments are quite profound, and the kind of understated profound that shows extreme talent and sensitivity. But they’re just moments strung together. I think that’s my consistent point that made me, in part, dislike the film.

    As for favorite movies, two things. One, I do have limited time to post here, so I’m not exhaustive. Two, I am asked the question so often I have a pat answer ready: TOL, NCFOM, and something funny, usually Galaxy Quest or Monty Python. At that point, one of two three happens. The person’s eyes glaze over and we talk about something else (more often than you’d think), the person says “I love TOL too” or whatever and we have a conversation, or they tell me what their favorite movie is and I listen. Most people don’t want to hear a long, passionate list of whatever movies.

    Finally, I appreciate your passion for film and your desire to engage intelligently and respectfully. I think we have a lot in common. I don’t appreciate having some standard created by you that I’m supposedly failing in this one interchange. If you care to, stick around and read what else I have to say, other films, other issues. I’d like that. But if you find me lacking, that’s your right. I’m happy with my professionalism and level of criticism, and so are my regular readers.

  • Todd Ford

    Nice reply. We seem to have a fair amount in common with regards to Linklater after all.
    I pushed a button. It may not seem fair, but it’s part of the life of a critic to be held to standards. I’m happy with your level of professionalism too, just not quite with your level of criticism, in this case.
    Btw, I love passionate lists of favorite movies.

  • Ynohtna

    Not liking a film is one thing, but not liking a film as much as other critics doesn’t justify a bad review…

  • Todd Ford

    Except that all of your examples of epiphanies are in the past tense, evoking retrospection. One thing Linklater’s project avoids at every turn is hindsight. It exists purely in the moment–the pre-epiphany stage–something he’s been interested in from his very first features and made explicit in Waking Life.

  • Jo

    I didn’t like the film either. I thought it had an AMAZING concept and was so excited to see it, but on viewing found it to be lacking in plot and acting skill. Perhaps I went into it without considering that the concept for the film was the main point.

  • Clara Clemens

    I wanted so badly to like Boyhood. I had read, and heard, so many adoring reviews. But there is something that any work of fiction needs to have: a narrative arc, that is coherent from start to finish. Boyhood lacked anything like a recognizable narrative–a story, a myth, a beginning-middle-and end.

    Some critics have pointed out that it is “just like life.” Too much like it, I thought: all those meals that were just like the awkward Thanksgivings in some many homes.

    What do we really learn from any of this? I compare it to a rich, mysterious densely plotted movie like Chinatown? Which will leave an indelible imprints on our minds and hearts – keep us reflecting long after the screen has grown dark.

    I’m an urban liberal, but I think in my way, I think I see the movie much as Ms. Cusey does. At minimum, the word required an editor with a more deft and focused hand.

  • JK

    Is very clear that the reviewer just wants to be different than the other critics, that’s her only goal in this review that is not intended as a review of the film but a review of the reviews of the other critics, sounds complicated but is simple, she wants to be the center of attention. As Miranda Priestly said “That’s all”

  • Starshine

    I totally agree with this review. It seemed as though all the reviews I have read were written by men. They are the ones who “relate on a primal level to this film.” As a single mother, I felt the mother in the film made horrendous choices when it came to caring for her children. What intelligent, single mother would let these types of men into her life? I expected that one of them would perpetrate much worse abuse than shaving a child’s hair or beating his mother. She was portrayed as a psychologist and should have known better. If Linklater had wanted to portray real life as it relates to this dysfunctional, abusive family, he should have had child protective services intervene in the lives of these neglected children.

  • pharb

    So, you would have liked Mason more if he had “served his country” by enlisting after 9/11, going off to fight in the wrong country, and coming home a double amputee?

  • Farty Fartsalot

    Hipsters…smh.

    They always have to be different.

  • joe joe

    If anyone was wondering if Rebecca’s review was written with the goal of gaining attention…..you only need to read the comments. She has responded to just about every post here. She has zero confidence in her review. You don’t see, respected, professional critics turning their comments into a desperate Q&A. If you don’t like the movie…fine. But at least show some backbone and own your review.

    Also, I don’t see how anyone can take your opinion seriously. All one needs to do is look at your absolutely dull and boring banner at the top the page. You chose a low res, un-edited image next to clique font. This is how you choose to brand yourself? It shows us you have no sense of style and are just plain lazy.

    I don’t mind the negative review. I’m just amazed that Rotten Tomatoes endorses amateur critics like this.

  • GM

    Rebecca, I really think you missed the mark on your critique of this film. I’ve read through some of the comments sections already for your review and I can see you’re already taking a lot of heat for this, but I would encourage you to watch the film at some point again. I don’t think you have to love the film like all the other critics, but your reasons for not liking this film aren’t very strong. I think you might be conditioned, having seen so many films, to expect more dramatic points in ‘Boyhood’ but ultimately with that expectation you miss the point of what this film is really getting at. There are bigger themes at play here in this film, which you don’t really address. I hope as a film critic you’d be willing to revisit this film because otherwise you’re going to be the outlier throughout awards season.

  • Buddy Hinton’s Loose Tooth

    Drive by smug factor 10+ by a dork who is, I guarantee, as white as snow.

  • Buddy Hinton’s Loose Tooth

    I love all of the pseudo-intellectuals here who claim you “don’t get it.”

  • Buddy Hinton’s Loose Tooth

    and in case you didn’t get it between his incessant name dropping, he’s a “leftist.”

  • Buddy Hinton’s Loose Tooth

    You’re a truly obnoxious individual.

  • Buddy Hinton’s Loose Tooth

    But meanwhile everyone here is berating and insulting you for having a dissenting opinion. It’s pretty funny.

  • Buddy Hinton’s Loose Tooth

    You’re deep.

  • Buddy Hinton’s Loose Tooth

    But it’s “perfect” movie, so shut up he explained.

  • Buddy Hinton’s Loose Tooth

    Do you still stomp up and down and throw tantrums when your mom doesn’t buy you something at Hot Topic?


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