Photo courtesy of the Wexner Center for the Arts
"It takes a film crew to raise a child," director Richard Linklater joked last night about his 12-years-in-the-making "Boyhood."
To call "Boyhood" the most buzzed-about movie of the year is not subjective. It might, in fact, be an understatement.
The wholly unique "Boyhood" was filmed over 12 years with the same core actors to document a Texas family through the eyes of Mason (Ellar Coltrane, who was seven when filming started in 2002). The result is like watching the evolution of a parenthood — the parents played by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette — and of a boy discovering his own self, all in two hours and 46 minutes.
The end result has critics collectively losing their minds in universal praise (the film currently has a 99 at Metacritic) and moviegoers dying to see what all the fuss is about, as evidenced by the sold-out crowd at last night's local premiere of the film, followed by a Q&A with Linklater, who returned to the Wex for the first time since he was honored with a film retrospective in 2000.
The event was sold out for weeks — I saw one hopeful couple waiting by the ticket counter with a "Need 2 tickets" sign like it was a Billy Joel concert — but the crowd sat eagerly through the film and a Q&A session that followed. Even with that anticipation, you'd be hard-pressed to find any disappointment in the room — including mine, so expect frothing praise when I write a full review when "Boyhood" hits Columbus theaters in a couple of weeks.
"The first year it just started like any other film," said Linklater. "The end was so far away, it was almost abstract."
The ambition of the project isn't just a stunt; it's key to the emotional trip. "As you would watch these people age, you would feel the investment," said Linklater.
The film's seemingly lengthy running time is also a breeze, far more so than another summer release. "That was my pitch … if we can spend 12 years, you can spend an extra 25 minutes," said Linklater. "Hell, the new 'Transformers' is the same length."
The film's unique shooting schedule — with the cast and crew reuniting annually for short bursts of shooting — is also key to it's contemplative nature. "Film doesn't usually offer you this opportunity to shoot, edit, then think about it for a year."
Of course, an lot was riding on the casting of Mason, and Linklater considers finding Coltrane "the luckiest thing I ever did." Towards the beginning of the project, Linklater handed the young Coltrane a script. "He handed it back to me like, 'Uh … I don't know how to read," recalled Linklater.
The long gestation period doesn't mean the the film was without a clear and singular vision. "The last shot of the movie, I knew what that was maybe 10 years earlier," Linklater said.
Linklater's appearance marks the second huge "get" in a week for the Wexner Center, with director Steve James introducing his equally praised Roger Ebert documentary just seven days prior. It also leads into the Wex's 25th anniversary lineup, which includes an exhibition of great modern works from the Wexner Family Collection, as well as appearance from Miranda July (!!!), filmmaker Terry Zwigoff and more.
For your continuing Linklater fix, the Wex will also be hosting an extensive retrospective on his films from the last decade or so. You can take in all three films of his "Before" series, or double-feature his groundbreaking animated works, "A Scanner Darkly" and "Waking Life."