The good news is that our writing/editing business is brisk, we’ve scored clients coast to coast and we’ve managed to capture more than our fair share of rave reviews and repeat business. The bad news is it’s becoming rare that we can steal away for an afternoon in a tucked away movie house to lose ourselves in a few hours of laughter or fantasy. Or, like today — reality.
As screenwriters, we love to keep an eye on much more than the glitz, glamour, chaos and scandal of Hollywood. We monitor the business. What gets made, what scores big at the box office, what gets the nods and statues in the early months of every year, who penned the scripts and how they managed to get them read, bankrolled, cast, shot and wrapped.
A search for a distraction from a tedious task led to a quick peek at Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 Movies of 2014 and spiked my curiosity. “Boyhood” was number one with a score of 99%. Don’t get me wrong, there were many movies made this year that scored well into the 90th percentile, in fact the first 35 on the list scored at or above 90%. It was that #1 slot that captured my attention.
It was a date – the 4:20 show in an air conditioned theatre on a day where the California temperature rivaled the current address of Jeffrey Dahmer, Osama Bin Ladin and Jack the Ripper was too great a temptation. My on-line writing group had mixed reviews on the movie, my response was “…worst case we’ll make out in the balcony.” Everybody wins.
Two 1/2 gallon jugs of Coke Zero, a tub of unbuttered popcorn and a pack of M&Ms pushed us into the “expensive date” zone, but we hadn’t indulged in a while, and so we entered the theatre prepared to have our questions answered — why was “Boyhood” the number one film of the year?
If I were to describe this film, I would say it would not be unlike the experience of being invited to a stranger’s house in middle-class America. They might offer you some semi-stale potato chips and a glass of warm root-beer before sitting you in the front room with a stack of photo albums and insist you start with the one on top.
The oldest — the beginning.
There are many cringe-worthy moments in “Boyhood”, but only because you have lived them, witnessed them, said them or heard them. It’s about love, the lack of love, the want for love, the search for love. It’s about acceptance, the lack of acceptance, the want for acceptance, the search for acceptance. It’s about change, the lack of change, the want for change — are you seeing the pattern here?
The thing that makes this movie unique from other movies that cope with the dynamics of family is that it was made over a period of twelve years — twelve years with the same cast. We actually witness the players evolve, mature, grow, learn and come of age. Every one of them, no matter what their age. Their arcs are subtle. The miracle lies in the fact that the entire cast was around, interested, ready and willing to regroup every year for twelve years to resume the film.
There are no tragedies, no magic moments, no rare diseases or natural disasters. The tension of the film lies in our uncomfortable familiarity with the situations, it lies in the angst of a broken family, in being the teen and in raising the teen. Being the parent and pardoning the parent. Being the adult and becoming the adult.
Number one? I’m not sure, I have seen so little this year to determine if it’s worthy of that elite place on the list. I think the enviable score of 99% comes more in that it’s likely 99% of those who reviewed it were a little freaked out that Richard Linklater may have wired their home, car, phone, thoughts and conversations to use for his script. In fact we’re pretty sure our kitchen was tapped for the scene about rinsing the cereal bowl and seeing it all the way into the dishwasher — we have that conversation down to perfection.
“Boyhood” might have just as well been called “Girlhood”, or “Parenthood”, or “Couple-hood”, or “Un-Couple-hood” for that matter. It is about surviving them all — and then continuing on to one day go back and visit memories in dusty photo albums over stale chips and root-beer, or a bowl of cereal.
Just make sure you rinse the bowl and — well, you know.