“What is this, the new Woody Allen movie?”
This is my brother speaking as we enter the 7:15 showing of Boyhood just in time to find two seats together amongst the crowd of grey-haired, sneaker-wearing men and women.
“I thought this was a scarce film.”
An important aside: “Scarce films” are movies that appear in limited release or are especially artsy, or are shown only in swanky little theaters in NYC. The term was invented by my brother four years ago when he was trying to convince me to go into city with him to see Lars von Trier’s Danish art film, Melancholia. “It’s only playing in like two theaters. It’s really scarce.”
He jokingly mispronounced scarce like “scars,” rhyming with the director’s first name. The term stuck.
When it came to Boyhood, which hasn’t yet been released nationwide, my brother and I anticipated the theater to be full of 20-somethings seeking to relive their own childhood. The film follows the life of a boy born in 1994, making him only two years younger than my brother. An older sister, who is only three years younger than me, is also featured prominently in the film.
There were many instances in which my brother and I found ourselves the only ones in the theater laughing in fond recollection at the sister dancing provocatively to “Hit me Baby One More Time” at the age of seven, or the kids lining up to buy Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in costume several years later. Because we did that! We sang along under our breath to “Do You Realize??” by the Flaming Lips (it’s 2002!) and tried to peg other years based on the Gameboy models and Xbox controllers. When the main character proclaimed with confidence that the best movies of the year were The Dark Knight, Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express, we were the most tickled people in the theater. Oh, 2008.
But here’s the really cool thing about Boyhood: director Richard Linklater has been filming this movie for twelve years, using the same leading actors, for only a couple of weeks at a time. (He’s used this approach in previous films, including the trilogy Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight.) And though the events and plot were staged, the characters of the young boy and the young girl were adjusted to suit their growing and developing personalities. Linklater didn’t want to film lead actor Ellar Coltrane experiencing a part of growing up, such as alcohol or girlfriends, if he hadn’t yet dealt with these issues in real life.
What I would praise most about Linklater’s decisions would be his choice of what moments to include. He skipped over Coltrane’s character losing his virginity but included a formative moment when one of many stepfathers asks him why he painted his nails purple. Coltrane explains in his always-chill manner that a girl did it, and he doesn’t care about taking it off because he knows it will wear off eventually.
This just seemed right to me. Sometimes weird memories stick in our brains and we don’t know why. And sometimes moments that are supposed to be essential to our maturity just aren’t.
You’ll know the film is reaching the end when you hear “Somebody That I Used to Know,” but you’ll hardly realize that 166 minutes have passed. And just as it is in life, don’t expect some grand cliché resolution. But do expect to come away pondering the moments and memories that have seized you.
Caroline (Higgins) Nyczak (’11) lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she spends the vast majority of her time teaching English Language Arts. You may also find her at barre exercise classes or playing (and losing) at bar trivia. She continues to be inspired by the energy and diversity of New York City and the beauty of that certain slant of light.