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Movie Night – 'Boyhood' chronicles 12 years of changes occurring in family (Feb. 11, 2015 issue)

“Boyhood” is unlike any movie ever made. The movie was filmed over the course of twelve years using the same cast. There was no need for makeup to make the actors look older and no need to switch actors as the characters in the movie grow and change. The actors themselves change right before your eyes.
The movie chronicles the life of Mason Evans, Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) and his family. Patricia Arquette plays mom Olivia and Lorelei Linklater plays Mason’s sister, Samantha. Ethan Hawke plays Mason Evans, Sr., the mostly absent father. The movie is about the entire family and the changes they go through over the years. However, the movie is shot primarily from the point of view of Mason, Jr.
The movie opens with Mason at age six living with his mother and sister in Texas. Shortly thereafter Olivia moves the family to Houston so she can attend the University of Houston. The idea of improving their lot in life is a theme that runs through the entire movie from Olivia’s perspective.
Mason, Sr. returns from a trip to Alaska that spanned 1½ years, time he did not see his kids. As a younger man Mason, Sr.’s relationship with his children is sporadic at best. As the movie unfolds and he becomes older (and maybe wiser) he begins to learn what it means to be a dad, to be there for and with his kids.
In the meantime, Olivia realizes her dream of becoming a teacher and works her way through several men, most of whom make a great first impression only to resort to alcohol and abuse as a way to cope with life. Mason, Jr. and Samantha are forced to endure the parade of worthless men.
The movie skips forward several years at a time, from Mason at age six to Mason at age nine to Mason at age 10, all the way to Mason at age 18. Through the different cities, homes, step-families, haircuts, music, and clothes you watch Mason and Samantha grow into the adults Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater become.
The idea of filming the actors as they age is definitely a novel concept. It’s interesting to see the actors grow up right before you on the screen. As Ellar Coltrane goes through puberty so does Mason, right down to the acne and the change in his voice.
Unfortunately, the novelty of the way the film was made fades under the weight of the fact that there is no plot to the movie. The movie is only a series of events in the life of the characters. Birthday parties, bowling, graduations, etc. are what make up the bulk of the movie. There’s no mystery to solve, no villain to defeat, no personal demons to battle, no goals sought or attained. There’s only scene after scene of mostly mundane events. Maybe the plot is surviving childhood. Regardless, the movie becomes boring with scene after scene of boring events.
Another problem with the movie is its length. For a running time of two hours and forty-five minutes you would expect more action or drama or something to keep your attention on the screen and your butt in the chair for that long. Somewhere around the 90-minute mark I began checking how much time was left in the movie, never a good sign.
It wasn’t all bad. Despite the fact that the movie tries to shove a political affiliation down your throat and the acting performances were merely mediocre, there are several scenes with the family where you can’t help but laugh. A few scenes may even make you cringe. I particularly enjoyed the way the filmmakers used music to show the passage of time and indicate the mini musical eras that define us as we grow older.
“Boyhood” is now available On Demand and on DVD/Blue Ray. If the uniqueness of the filming of the movie is intriguing to you I would recommend “Boyhood” only as rental. And only when you have nearly three hours to kill.
Grade: B-
Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use.