Slice-of-life drama of a young boy’s experiences from age 5 to age 18.
Ever since his first indie films, Slacker and Dazed and Confused in the early 1990s, writer/director Richard Linklater has been known for his slice-of-life genre films of people rambling on about thoughts on life in plotless narratives that seek to capture the feel of a generation, time period or location.
And now, he’s received an Oscar nomination, after all those years, for his new slice-of-life plotless narrative of rambling. I have six words for this nomination: What the hell were they thinking?
The gimmick of the movie, and it is a gimmick, is that Linklater filmed the actors of the story over a period of 12 years in order to use the same young boy and his character’s sister as the actors playing the roles over those 12 years (along with the leads of their parents played by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette. But hey, adults usually don’t change as much).
The gimmick doesn’t work. The boy is an okay actor, but his sister is terrible. Quite frankly, the boy looks so different as he ages that Linklater could have used a different actor. The result would have been much better had he just cast GOOD actors to play each age. Ah, but you see, such bias as that comes from those of us narrow-minded unsophisticated moviegoers with our unreasonable demands of actually wanting a good story.
And story this movie does not have. Yes, it is a “character study” of the interfamily dynamics of divorced parents and the attachment theory of its effects on children. But good storytellers can accomplish character study within a good story. Every scene plays like a moment that will lead to something, but never does, leaving the viewer unsatisfied.
The boy in the movie, Mason, watches his mom struggle to make her way as a single mother through a string of alcoholic husbands, while his father, a free-spirited artist pops in and out of their lives with a happy sort of nihilism. The boy and his sister grow up with blended families, graduate high school and start going to college. And then it ends with Mason’s first day at college meeting new friends.
And. That’s. About. It. Nothing ever really happens.
But the real problem with this film is not merely that it is an endless parade of purposeless moments, or as his mother complains, “A series of milestones: having a family, getting divorced, getting married,” blah blah blah. “And do you know what’s next? My f***ing funeral. I just thought there would be something more.”
The real problem is: that is the point that Linklater is trying to make with his non-story story. Mason asks his father, “So what’s the point of any of this?” His father responds that “You are responsible for you. We’re all just winging it.” Another character, I can’t remember which one because they are all the same passive lifeless characters just winging it, says, “Everyone’s stuck in between states, not really experiencing anything.” I think it was Mason.
The very last scene of the movie spells out this sermon of nice guy nihilism when a college girl says, “Everyone says ‘seize the moment.’ But I think it’s the other way around. I think it’s the moment that seizes us.” Mason concludes, “Yeah, it’s like it’s always right now.” Constant moments. College-aged existentialist angst and self-creation.
To read the complete review go to Godawa.com