Tag Archives: Richard Linklater

Rich People Problems

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

by Hope Madden

Low-key visionary director Richard Linklater, inexhaustible talent Cate Blanchett and wildly popular source material exploring creativity, motherhood and existential angst—Where’d You Go, Bernadette could work.

The title suggests two things. Metaphorically, it refers to a disappeared genius. Bernadette Fox ceased to exist when she abandoned her architectural artistry for parenthood and, as far as the creative world knew, vanished.

In a less metaphorical manner, the title refers to the actual mystery driving the plot of Maria Semple’s novel—the story of a teenager using emails, news clippings and notes to try to piece together the whereabouts of her now-literally-missing mother.

That mystery is mainly gone from Linklater’s film adaptation, as Bernadette (the ever-exquisite Blanchett) doesn’t up and vanish until well after the 90-minute mark, and because the audience knows where she is all the while.

Instead, Linklater focuses on why she left in the first place. Because, what could have been an ideal situation for another woman—wealthy husband (Billy Crudup) and his super-attentive administrative assistant, precocious and adoring daughter (Emma Nelson), nice neighborhood (even if the neighbors hate her), good schools, money to burn on virtual personal assistants (who turn out to be Russian identity thieves)—welp, it just doesn’t seem to be enough for Bernadette.

There’s a lot to like about Where’d You Go, Bernadette, including a game cast and some gorgeous footage. Unfortunately, under all that is yet another fantasy about a rich white woman who needs to find herself.

In its worst moments, the film falls back on catty mean girlisms, as if the greatest nightmare a woman could face would be for the withering cliquishness of high school to survive into adulthood, the popular moms making you feel like an outcast all over again.

The filmmaker hits his stride, unsurprisingly, when pairing Blanchett with, well, basically anybody. Her one-on-one moments with Nelson, Kristin Wiig (as prissy neighbor Audrey), Laurence Fishburne (playing a former colleague) and Crudup (neutered as his character is) almost make up for the blandly directionless narrative.

Linklater can do comedy (School of Rock!!). He can certainly dive into motherhood (Boyhood). Nobody’d argue his insight and artistry when it comes to documenting a romantic relationship with its ups and downs (Sunset series). Frustratingly, with this film he simply cannot seem to decide which direction to take.

Comedic moments are abandoned before they land, emotional messiness is tidied into submission, dramatic moments are undercut before they can generate any tension.

The resulting, meandering tale doesn’t go much of anywhere.

Bond of Brothers

Last Flag Flying

by George Wolf

“Men make the wars, and wars make the men.”

Last Flag Flying is a loving salute to the enduring nature of honor. Thoughtful and sometimes genuinely moving, it’s also not above getting laughs from three aging veterans trying to buy their very first mobile phones or arguing about the ethnicity of Eminem.

It is 2003, and Larry, aka “Doc,” (Steve Carell) is looking up two old Marine buddies for a very specific purpose. Doc, Sal (Bryan Cranston) and Richard (Laurence Fishburne) all served in Vietnam together, and now Doc needs his friends to help bury his son, who has just been killed in the Iraq War.

Once the men learn that the official story of the boy’s death isn’t exactly the real story, Doc declines a burial at Arlington, deciding to transport the body for a hometown funeral in New Hampshire.

Older gentlemen out for a wacky road trip? Is that what’s going on here?

Those fears are understandable but unwarranted, as director Richard Linklater confidently guides the film with gentle restraint and his usual solid instincts for organic storytelling. Some good-natured humor is framed from the three outstanding main performances, but it never derails the resonance of these characters grappling with the cyclical nature of sacrifice.

Linklater adapts the script with source novelist Darryl Ponicsan, who also wrote the 1970s servicemen-centered flicks Cinderella Liberty and The Last Detail. Last Flag Flying draws many parallels with the latter film, as it is not a stretch to see these characters as the Detail men taking stock of what the years have changed – and what they haven’t.

Though the perfectly-drawn contrasts of the three personalities seem manufactured at times, it matters less thanks to Carell, Cranston and Fishburne, who are never less than a joy to watch. You’ll need tissues handy for the touching final moments, but Last Flag Flying makes the tears, and the trip, worthwhile.

How ‘Bout You?

Everybody Wants Some!!

by Hope Madden

Of all filmmakers in the world, few – if any – can do slice-of-life as well as Richard Linklater. Never weighed down by plot structure or the rigid expectations of modern cinema, Linklater’s the master of fluid, easygoing, day-in-the-life filmmaking. His latest exercise in the craft, Everybody Wants Some, is a charmer.

You’re invited to a 3-day bender in the late summer of 1980 – the long weekend before the first day of classes – and Linklater’s meandering camera makes you feel like you’re just wandering through the party.

Everybody Wants Some is, without question, too forgiving. A South Texas university baseball team settles into the new year by scoping out the female action on and off campus. They’re adaptive – disco one night, urban cowboys the next, punk rockers on a random Sunday. Linklater not only nails 1980, but pinpoints the almost invisible moments of import in a person’s life.

This is a consequence-free zone that smells a bit of nostalgia and self-congratulations. And yet, thanks to a slew of utterly charming performances, the film still works exceptionally well.

Linklater has assembled an outstanding ensemble – not a false note in the lot, from the quiet everyman Jake (Blake Jenner) to the hypercompetitive McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) to the philosophical ladies’ man Finnegan (Glen Powell) to the ranting wacko Jay (Juston Street) – and basically the entire team. The first thing Linklater does is establish each ballplayer’s type, just to quietly destroy your preconceived notions of character.

Billed as the “spiritual sequel” to 1993’s coming of age classic Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some is even more laid back, decidedly more masculine, and quite a bit more existential. Linklater’s more existential films tend toward the bittersweet – some more bitter, this one more sweet.

Like Dazed, the new film litters its fluid storyline with hijinks and casually perceptive dialog.

“It’s all so damn tribal.”

“Embrace your inner strange.”

It’s a film about competition and identity, the battle between self-discovery and authenticity, but with Linklater’s light, affectionate touch, nothing ever feels heavy. The writing is as good as anything Linklater has produced, positively glowing with “unsolicited wisdom and fuckwithery.” And all of it leads to an absolutely perfect ending.


Best Film of 2014 For Your Queue

The best film of 2014, Boyhood, releases today for home entertainment. See it! Do it! Director Richard Linklater’s meandering auteurism has led him to this culminating effort, a low key slice of life – but a really, really big slice. Filmed over 12 years, Linklater’s work captures something absolutely unique yet entirely recognizable as it journeys through one boy’s entire young life. A master of the small moment and a genius of collaboration, Linklater draws the best from his game cast and reimagines cinema as he does it.

This great American director’s career is littered with underseen gems, but the one you really need to find is Bernie. Jack Black – who was letter perfect in Linklater’s wonderful School of Rock – excels in this true-crime comedy/drama. Black plays the titular Bernie, the nicest, most beloved guy in town, who happens to also be a murderer. Linklater’s laid back approach and liberal use of non-actors gives the film an off kilter likeability that perfectly supports Black’s genius turn.


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.




Because After Midnight, They’re Gonna Let It All Hang Down

Before Midnight

by Hope Madden

The third installment of what may be the most understated trilogy in cinematic history, Before Midnight catches up with Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) – American writer and French muse – almost twenty years after their first meeting on that train.

Those two romantic kids Richard Linklater followed around Vienna back in 1994’s Before Sunrise, then again through Paris in 2004’s Before Sunset, are now a timeworn couple with kids on vacation in Greece. If nothing else, the pair does visit lovely spots.

For all the similarities in the three films, though, Linklater and his two leads/co-writers take the story in a very natural yet risky direction. The first two installments are among the most unabashedly romantic indie films ever made.

Before Midnight, on the other hand, is far more of a meditation on relationships – the compromises, selfishness, joys, tedium. This is untrod ground in Hollywood, where films find inspiration in either the beginning or the end of a romance. That long slog in the middle, though, that’s hidden from view.

As Celine and Jesse struggle with the consequences of their youthful decisions and wrestle against the weight of middle age, they take some time to examine their lives, flaws and desires. They talk it out.

This is certainly the talkiest film released this weekend, as it relies entirely on conversation to tell its story. There are times when the dialogue feels self-serving. At other times, it gives the film too pretentious an air. On the whole, though, these characters are recognizable in a way that is rarely achieved in film.

Delpy’s performance is particularly courageous, as she’s willing to be unlikeable in the way we all are when we’re feeling particularly bitter and put-upon. Hawke equals her performance, allowing Jesse’s entire demeanor to change in relation to Celine’s mood; after years together, he can predict what’s coming and maneuver to calm the storm. Their unerring take on couplehood is often unsettling, and it brings authenticity to every scene.

Warts and all, Before Midnight is a sort of miracle. It revisits beloved characters with subversive honesty, embraces mid-life without pretending it to be something other than what it is, and finds value in the struggle to remain inspired by your own love.