Tag Archives: Ellar Coltrane

There’s Music and There’s People and They’re Young and Alive

Shoplifters of the World

by Matt Weiner

Never meet your heroes. That goes double for present-day Morrissey, frontman for the Smiths. But Shoplifters of the World looks back at a more innocent era in 1987, the day the band broke up, and conjures up a time when the Manchester rock band was the Beatles for disaffected teens who traded in mop tops for asymmetrical haircuts.

And Denver, Colorado—if you believe the urban legend that inspired the film—was ground zero for overenthusiastic Smiths fans. Director Stephen Kijak reimagines the night that distraught fan Dean (Ellar Coltrane, Boyhood) held a radio station hostage, forcing the DJ to play nonstop Smiths songs.

While Dean remains holed up at the radio station with the DJ, Full Metal Mickey (Joe Manganiello, perfection as a heavy metal himbo), Dean’s friends grieve and celebrate one last big night together before figuring out their lives post-high school.

That includes college, the Army, and for Cleo (Helena Howard), a general sort of Linklater malaise that seems to befall suburban teens on the eve of life’s next big adventure.

The film sets Cleo and the gang’s exploits to Smiths songs, along with contemporary interviews with band members that serve as a reminder of how much the Smiths meant for music, especially pop and indie rock, in an age of big hair and even bigger power chords.

Even though the film is a love letter to the Smiths, it’s as much about the insular obsession of finding meaning through art. Even diehard metalhead Mickey comes to appreciate the way all these young fans have experienced an era-defining shock in their young lives.

Still, it’s hard to shake the sense that the entire night’s events come down to a group of surly teens gatecrashing a bunch of parties to force everyone to listen to their music instead of having a good time… and yet everyone is still exceedingly polite to all the assholes in eyeliner.

This is also a painfully recognizable part of both obsessive fandoms and a good coming of age story. The mix of low stakes self-discovery and winsome leads helps keep their night out more charming than cringeworthy. Shoplifters is content to go big on soundtrack and mood, and it’s a choice that works.

There isn’t a ton of depth to the ensemble friends—the film is often too busy setting up just the right music cue. But when you have the music rights to take those cues from the likes of Morrissey and Johnny Marr, a little bit of charm goes a long way.

Slacker Turned Oscar Contender



by Hope Madden

With an effort that proves Richard Linklater to be indefinable as an artist even as it feels a natural evolution of his best work, Boyhood is a movie like no other.

Linklater filmed his low key opus over twelve years, pulling cast and crew back together for a few days each year to check back in on Mason (Ellar Coltrane), his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) and their parents to see how things are hanging.

And that’s it. We participate in every year of Mason’s childhood, from Grade 1 to his freshman year in college. It’s not the big events, either, but the seemingly innocuous moments that, in sum, define a childhood.

Linklater’s genius has always been his generosity and patience with his cast and  his mastery in observing the small event. Many of his films feel as if they are moving of their own accord and he’s simply there to capture it, letting the story unveil its own meaning and truth. The Before series offers obvious examples, but much of his work, from Slacker and Dazed and Confused onward, benefits from a casual observational style.

Never has he allowed this perception to define a film quite as entirely or as eloquently as he does in Boyhood. With the collaborative narrative Linklater sets a tone that is as close to reality as any film has managed. It’s both sweeping and precise, with Linklater’s deceptively loose structure strengthened by his near flawless editing and use of music to transition from one year to the next. He’s the surest bet so far for an Oscar in directing, and his film is the strongest contender yet for best picture.

For his cast, Linklater returned to regular contributor Ethan Hawke, whose performance as Mason’s somewhat flaky father marks the best work the actor’s ever done. Equally wonderful is Patricia Arquette with the meatier role of Mason’s mother, a loving if flawed matriarch. Linklater’s own daughter Lorelei also impresses and absolutely entertains as the boy’s sister.

Importantly, though our primary vehicle through this childhood is Mason, we come to truly know all these characters. None is given short shrift, and each is entirely fascinating in their own right.

But the film succeeds or fails with Coltrane, and Linklater owes a debt to the movie gods for this bit of casting. What a wonderful, fascinating, tender character the young actor carves out of this experience. With nary a false note, he carries us through the unforgettably familiar and authentic moments of insecurity, love, heartbreak, longing and confusion that mark childhood.

It’s a breathtakingly understated and authentic turn, perfect for the only film of its kind.