I'll be the judge of that.

On Boyhood

boyhood 1000x500  On Boyhood

I’ll get the review out of the way early, by way of a lite confession: I love most movies and Boyhood is no exception. It’s probably not great for a would-be critic and pop culture curator (icon??) like myself to be giddy every time I enter a theater, but it’s the truth. My mom says it’s refreshing that I see the good in things, and much like Milhouse Van Houten, I’m sure there is no way she would be biased about anything relating to her children.  If Boyhood taught me anything it’s that parents always know exactly what they are doing and what they do is always for the best.

*****

My girlfriend and I showed up for the 10pm showing at the IFC Theater in the West Village earlier than usual.  Boyhood will be rolling out nationally over the next few weeks, but on this night it was still in limited release and the tickets were a little tougher to get. How tough, you ask? Lets just say I was up before noon on a Saturday to order them online. It’s that kind of exclusive access we have here at Syvology™.

We were both excited about the movie: she is from Austin where director Richard Linklater has called home for years – and I am a movie fan who happens to have been a boy ages 6-18 as recently as a decade ago. I’m also from a town where there is nothing to do after 7pm except drive thirty minutes to the nearest movie theater (hence the giddiness).  We talked about our favorite movies growing up and our respective childhoods. Even though we grew up 1,500 miles apart – she in the southern heat of Texas, me in the northern non-heat of Vermont – our experiences are pretty similar. We played sports, listened to music, the usual stuff. She had cooler taste in art but not by so much that it’s a major problem.

We talked about getting seats in the back row of the theater so we could make-out just like a couple of crazy teenagers (don’t worry you guys, I’m a professional. There was virtually no making out.)

I finished my pack of Milk Duds before the movie started. It’s a glutinous, childish impulse that seems to have gotten stronger with age, but those things are delicious and I would do it again right now if I could. Unfortunately I don’t keep my house stocked with movie theater candy so it won’t happen (note to self: stock house with movie theater candy). I split the bottom of the box open to see if I’d missed anything just as the lights went dark and the movie started. I rubbed the leftover chocolate from my fingers onto my socks. I am an adult.

*****

The movie is epic and beautiful and profound. It took forty days over twelve years to film, and the weight of watching the actors age is almost unbearable by the final scenes. I started to fidget and looked from the screen to my knees much more often than usual. They looked thinner than I remember. Patricia Arquette deserves all the awards for her heartbreaking portrayal of the Mom; Linklater deserves them too just for thinking so big and executing so flawlessly. I can’t wait to be outraged about their respective neglect by the Academy in six months.

The movie ended and we hailed a cab. The driver told us he used to pick up a lot of celebrities (including Mr. Billy Joel) and I told him that was ‘awesome.’ I hope it didn’t sound as condescending there as it does here. We met some friends at a bar near our apartment. The bars in our neighborhood range in vibe from ‘hipster dive’ to ‘speakeasy,’ but the longer we live here the more comfortable I get, which in itself is kind of disheartening. If my eighteen year-old self could see me now, he might be disappointed. Or maybe he would just think its cool that he could get into bars legally. Hard to say. In any case, the difficult moments dealing with alcoholism in Boyhood sucked some of the fun out of an evening of binge drinking and we headed home early.

I sat on the couch and didn’t talk much.  It was almost 3am and though hanging out with a mopey adult man is probably a barrel of laughs, my girlfriend decided to go to bed.  Her loss. I fired up the Xbox to take my mind off things, but something about video games made me feel even more nostalgic for my youth (which is only strange because I was not allowed to have video games when I was a kid. Life can be hard sometimes, I know). This put me in a tough spot: I could not sleep and I could not drink and I could not play video games. What’s a man to do?

 *****

As a kid, any time we’d rent a tape (ask your parents) we would always watch the movie once in the evening and then I would get up early and watch it again the next morning. It was my way of extending the otherwise-fleeting movie experience, and also my way of memorizing movie lines for quoting later. People love a precocious preteen who speaks almost-exclusively in Simpsons and movie quotes, or so I thought.

The relative brevity of film is what makes it so consumable and so enjoyable, but also makes it hard to find an experience that lasts. I knew Boyhood was truly great after it stuck with me on Sunday morning. I felt like I carried it with me during my Sunday routine of egg sandwiches and extreme sitting. I thought about it often at work the following week. I haven’t talked about it much, but only because it raises a lot of questions I don’t know how to answer yet, and some that I worry I might never figure out.

On Sunday night we usually get takeout – Indian or burgers or pizza if I’m choosing – but last week I decided to cook. I’m not great in the kitchen but there is something comforting about boiling the pasta water myself. Maybe it’s knowing that I could take care of something on my own, even if it is something very small. If Boyhood taught me anything, it’s that those little things add up.

 

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