My Netflix copy of the movie Boyhood is sitting in the mailbox right now and ever since I finished watching it last night, I have been thinking about it.
I guess that's the mark of a good movie but in actuality, it may say more about the fact that a movie I really wanted to like I couldn't really like, despite the fascinating way it was made. The story is basically the life of Mason, a boy who is raised by a single mom from age 6 to age 18 -- familiar territory to me, a single mom raising a boy. The writer/director Richard Linklater spent 12 years making the film, so instead of using several different actors to portray the main character, he just filmed over that 12 year period of time.
When I heard that the movie had been nominated for a bunch of Academy Awards, I watched the trailer and then ordered it from Netflix.
I guess the main things that bother me about the film are going to make me sound very "un-cool" but so be it. I was raised by a banker and a stay-at-home mother in the South in the 1960's and 70's. We went to church on Sundays, cheered on college football teams and watched MASH and All In the Family as a family. We had a cabin on the lake where we went in the summer. My parents voted Republican.
That description of my family doesn't begin to describe everything of course. There were fights sometimes. There was tension. My dad was a bit of a control freak and he could be very hard on my brother. My mom and I have totally opposite personalities so there was some tension there.Yet, my brother and I always knew we were loved and we were secure.
As I watched Boyhood, there were so many ways that I felt dismayed by the portrayal of that family life. The mom went from man to man and never made a good match. The son came in from a night of drinking and smoking pot and she not only didn't fuss at him, she acted like it was no big deal. The father (although rather unstable job-wise) seemed like a guy that could otherwise do no wrong - his character was really unrealistic in so many ways. The kids never seemed to act out or have problems in school, or show much reaction to their chaotic lives, except for a couple of times when Mason's sister was mouthy and disrespectful to the mom.
Spoiler alert - if you want to see the movie, you may want to skip the rest of this.
One of the mom's boyfriends was supposed to be an Iraq War veteran, and his portrayal seemed fine right up until one point. He was talking about his experiences in Iraq, and someone asked how the Iraqi people felt about the American Army's presence there, and he said "Oh they said we were just there for the oil." Good grief, way to inject your liberal viewpoint there, Linklater. My brother served a year in Iraq. Most of the Iraqi people were happy the Americans went in there and ousted Saddam Hussein, happy to live free of that tyranny, glad to have their country stabilized, finally. I'm sure there were insurgents there in 2008 when Brother was there, but most of the Iraqi people he and the other soldiers interacted with with were pleased with the American presence there. He was very interested in that, so he talked to a lot of different guys. He didn't base that opinion on a couple of random encounters. I've never heard a veteran say they were there just "for the oil." Linklater (the writer/director) did a poor job of portraying that vet.
Just like the movie Avatar was spoiled for me because it portrayed all military personnel as insensitive jerks, this movie was tainted by that one ridiculous and unrealistic line.
Also, the movie was set in Texas. None of the main characters had anything remotely approaching a Texas accent.
The last part of the movie showed some behavior that I found disturbing. Young Mason allowed to drive a couple of hours to another city to see his sister, then he was drinking beer [at about age 16 or 17] in a public bar. He had sex with his girlfriend in his sister's dorm room. He casually used drugs.
Maybe that's mild these days. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned. But my kids would've never been allowed to do that at that age.
My final bone to pick -
Nobody in this movie ever told each other "I love you." My family may not be ideal, but we have always expressed our love for each other, every day. I felt sorry for these kids that didn't kiss their parents goodbye or say I Love You to them.
But I'm not saying don't see the movie. See it. Make up your own mind.
This is the trailer: