Boyhood Review

I couldn’t wait for Boyhood to end. After I felt like I was an hour in I looked at how long it had left- I hadn’t watched 20 minutes. It’s almost 3 hours long. I’m not sure why it’s so popular. It’s probably because of the way it was made. I think it was cool having the same people play the characters as they grew up but it was unnecessary for a good story and this film doesn’t have one. It feels like a film made about people my age written by someone who clearly isn’t. There are some good things about it but I think it needed to be half as long and actually about something.

Boyhood is a coming of age story about a boy, Mason, just going through life. It follows him from childhood to college. Sometimes there’s drama, most of the time nothing interesting happens.

The movie tries to do a fly on the wall thing and be realistic. This didn’t work for me because of how hokey it came off. The main character skates to Yellow by Coldplay, watches Dragon Ball Z, is read Harry Potter by his mother and is woken up by his sister singing Oops I Did It Again in the first scenes of the movie. That’s like what a historian 100 years from now would think life in the early 2000s was like. There’s a part where Mason waits in line to get the new Harry Potter book. There’s literally no character or plot development in the scene, it’s just to say “remember this guys?”.

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Boyhood screenplay

The whole childhood section was awful. The child actors aren’t good and the characters are too one dimensional to be interesting. I felt like the movie was supposed to be an accurate portrayal of growing up but everyone was too cliché for me to relate to. The main character’s first step-dad is an asshole with no redeeming qualities. He came off like a villain from a kid’s movie. There are more interesting characters in the film but his increasing douchieness became funny because of how cliche it was presented.

The writing’s bad. There’s a scene where a roughly 14-year-old Mason is hanging around town with some cool older kids. They sound like a church youth group making an anti-drug PSA. I couldn’t look at the screen during it, I felt too embarrassed. There’s also a Mexican gardener shoehorned into a scene early on. The main character’s mum tells him he’s smart and should study. In a later scene, out of nowhere, you see the gardener in a suit, who comes up to the mum in a restaurant and says “you gave me the inspiration to study and now I’m a manager” then goes away. I have no idea what we’re supposed to take from that.

I found it extremely hard to finish this movie. I was ready to turn it off when it got half an hour in out of boredom. The film is just long stretches of nothingness that feel like they’re supposed to be deep. Ethan Hawke plays the main character’s father and they chat about Star Wars at one point. “Will they make another Star Wars?” the kid says, “Nah what are they going to do, make Han Solo a Sith lord?”. How interesting. Ok it’s supposed to be casual conversation. But that’s the exchange the scene built up to. It’s not interesting, they just reference a movie in the same way they showed Mason play Halo a few scenes back. The film’s full of tedious, disconnected scenes like this.

I got nothing out of Boyhood. I felt like I was being told by a 50 year old guy how I grew up. It was weird and embarrassing because he was wrong. I didn’t get any deep or meaningful insights and there were no characters I cared about. I became more interested around the part about Mason’s late high school life though. It might be because I was that age not long ago. But that’s barely a compliment. They were sort of able to relate to me on some level 2 hours into the film- not a good thing.

There Will Be Blood is also a long, slow movie, but it’s always entertaining. What’s interesting about it is the relationship between two interesting characters. It’s not clear who to root for. You feel nervous and it makes you anticipate what might happen next. Then the tension’s payed off in ways that are entertaining. There’s no drama in Boyhood that didn’t feel hokey to me. The kid has some step fathers that are unredeemable assholes. That’s not good drama, that’s a cliche from a 90s kids movie.

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There Will Be Blood’s quiet scenes build up to disturbing climaxes like this one.

Boyhood wore me out. I don’t think it’s bad despite what I just said about it. I feel like the director put a lot of love into it. It doesn’t feel very cynical or too Oscar bait-ish to me, I just think it should have been half the length and more focused. I think they should’ve either done a hyper realistic look at growing up in the 2000s and have it feel like Elephant, or make a more traditional coming of age story about a kid in the 90s. The way the the characters are presented I can’t buy them as the real people that the film tries to pass them off as.

The best thing about the movie is Ethan Hawke. His character is the only one that I felt had any depth. You can tell he loves his kids, but doesn’t know how to express it. It adds tension to his scenes and makes them engaging. If all the characters had the same depth to them I’d like the film a lot more.

But overall, Boyhood is a long waste of time.

2 Replies to “Boyhood Review”

  1. Nice review. I had a post on my blog (a while back) about Boyhood and I completely agree with you (maybe my dislike is stronger). While it is an impressive attempt at film making, I feel like nearly all of the praise for the movie is ”It.s amazing as they did XXX for 12 whole years”. The pandering with nostalgia also started to annoy me fairly quickly too.

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    1. This seems like more of an ego trip than an actual narrative, similar to the Revenent, to an extent. Okay, that movie had outstanding editing, cinematography and production design, but the main draw for voters at awards ceremonies was the process of making it, like this. Thank goodness Birdman, an actually sophisticated movie with weight and layers, won more awards than this.

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