On this day in 1960, my favorite director was born. I’m going to take this time and discuss some of my favorite films by a master story-teller, Richard Linklater.
I really feel like everyone hates their hometown when they are growing up. SubUrbia is about feeling inadequate and lost at its core. This movie perfectly encapsulates feeling of being stuck in a rut and the quarter-life crisis that many people go through. The film follows a group of young adults who are still trying to figure out life after high school graduation and how to navigate through it. They are having a typical night standing in front of their local convenient store when the one guy who made it out of their hometown and hit it big, comes back to visit causing insecurities to show their awful colors. Like a lot of Linklater’s work, SubUrbia is set in one day and is character and dialog driven with heavy emotional moments.
Before Trilogy (1995-2013)
Alright, this is cheating. I don’t care though. I can’t watch one without making a day of it and watching the other two. The Before Trilogy uses real time (almost two decades) to tell the story of two star-crossed lovers who meet on a train in Vienna. They spend one night together and instantly know that they will either be destined for heartbreak, or will have the love story to be written about for ages. I do warn you, this is not your typical fairy-tale romance film. Jesse and Celine have plenty of ups and downs. Linklater keeps the audience guessing to this day, “how are Jesse and Celine?” “Are they okay?” “What happened after the Greece trip?” Even if I don’t get closure and the Before films stay a trilogy and away from saga waters, I’m okay with a certain level of ambiguity.
Dazed and Confused (1993)
Alright, alright, alright. You knew coming in that arguably Linklater’s most famous film would be included on this list. Dazed and Confused on the surface is a stoner movie. Until you watch it with clear eyes you will realize it has quite a bit to say. The setting is the last day of school, 1976. The upcoming seniors are hazing the incoming freshmen, planning a party, and asking questions, such as “Are these really supposed to be the best days of my life?” The cast is filled with future house hold names such as, Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Anthony Rapp, Milla Jovovich, and Joey Lauren Adams. The film has something for every group in high school. Jocks, geeks, burnouts, motor heads, etc. But it follows the every-man Randy “Pink” Floyd in his wavering decision on if he will return to the football field as star quarterback in the fall after signing a pledge to be clean and sober during the season. Or will he keep to his values but throw away a chance at a state title.
Ol’ Linklater was at it again by using real life time to tell a story that spans 12 years. Instead of casting different actors to play the same characters in different times of their lives, he patiently waited over a decade for the cast to age naturally. As you may assume from the title, Boyhood is story about a young boy as he starts 1st grade and goes through his move in day at college. Ellar Coltrane literally grows up before our very eyes in the 2 hour 45 minute epic. Along with Coltrane we have long time collaborator Ethan Hawke playing the role of the father, Patricia Arquette as his mother, with Richard Linklater’s own daughter, Lorelei Linklater as Samantha, the sister. This is the most realistic representation of everyday American life of children of divorce that I have ever seen. Find the time to sit down and have a few good cries. You deserve it.
School of Rock (2003)
Another movie I couldn’t leave off. School of Rock is literal perfection. Jack Black is on record many times saying it is the best movie he has ever done. He’s not wrong. It has elements of your typical big studio comedy movie while balancing the artistry of the performance by not only Black, but as the super talented kids as well. School of Rock was the highest grossing musical based comedy until 2015 when it was topped by Pitch-Perfect 2. I’m not sure if there will ever be a major studio comedy with as much heart and soul as School of Rock. Oh and “The Legend of the Rent” still slaps to this day.
It was really hard for me to leave off so much of Linklater’s work and only pick 5 films. Leaving off the great experimental film, A Scanner Darkly. As well as the spiritual successor to Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some. Let me know, do you get down with Richard Linklater? What is your favorite film by him?