Kenneth Turan on Boyhood

The new film Boyhood has got rave reviews all around. I have not seen it as yet and so was interested by this article by Los Angeles Times and NPR film critic Kenneth Turan who was not overly impressed with it, thinking it merely OK and somewhat gimmicky.

The article was less a review and more a reflection on the role of critic, especially when he finds himself so out of step with the majority of his colleagues, causing him to be reflective as to why it did not move him similarly.

This was no violent blockbuster one could feel free to disdain but a film I was supposed to embrace, a small independent effort whose interest in humanistic themes, character development and interpersonal drama were elements that matter the most to me. I should have been front and center in applauding “Boyhood” rather than remaining cold to its charms.

I have mentioned before that I tend to agree with Turan’s judgments on films and in his article he mentions three other cases where he did not care for films that were widely praised: Titanic, Pulp Fiction, and Fight Club. I did not see the first (and have no intention of doing so), absolutely hated the second, and found the third to be just ok and somewhat contrived.

Given his willingness to go against the popular mood on those three films, I was surprised to read him here saying that he decided not to review Boyhood because he felt so out of step with other critics and filmgoers.

He ended with this interesting insight about why it might be that occasionally everyone enthusiastically gets behind some film.

On one hand, the fuss about “Boyhood” emphasized to me how much we live in a culture of hyperbole, how much we yearn to anoint films and call them masterpieces, perhaps to make our own critical lives feel more significant because it allows us to lay claim to having experienced something grand and meaningful.

The director of the film Richard Linklater was interviewed on The Daily Show where Jon Stewart gushed over it.

(This clip aired on July 22, 2014. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)

I have queued up this film on Netflix but am not sure if I will actually order it when it comes out on DVD. Has any reader seen it?


  1. nichrome says

    Hi Mano,

    The guys at Red Letter Media reviewed “Boyhood” and they also didn’t like it. I like their reviews – they’re irreverent & sometimes profane but Mike & Jay come from the perspective of filmmakers and have good knowledge behind their sarcasm.

    “Boyhood” does sound too contrived for my tastes, although I really want to support more indie & imaginative films.

    If you haven’t seen the Red Letter Media “Mr. Plinkett” Star Wars prequel reviews, they’re well worth watching – but give yourself time as they’re long.

  2. flex says

    I’m of largely the same opinion. I have no desire to see Titanic. Pulp Fiction was an interesting use of time-shifts in editing but the stories were banal. And Fight Club had a few points of interest but the ‘stick-it-to-the-man’ feeling that so many devotees appear to have taken from it ignores the fact that the main character was insane.

    I would add The Matrix to that list as well. Over-hyped, it took itself so seriously that when I finally saw it I was laughing through much of it. It works pretty well as a comedy. And I say this as a reader and fan of much of Baudrillard’s work, which I learned later was an supposedly an inspiration for the writers of The Matrix. I consider it an iconic bit of film, in the sense that it influenced many writers and directors, as well as innumerable spoofs, but I have no desire to see it again.

    However, I am willing to admit that in all of the above films, I didn’t see any of them in theaters. All of them I saw well after the initial release of the film. Not that I knew all the spoilers, but the hype had died down. Fans of the films couldn’t believe I’d never seen them and insisted that I watch them with them.

    This isn’t to say that I think that all cinema should be watched in a theater, there are plenty of great films which are just as good when watching them in your living room. As examples I’d suggest The Thin Man, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Shawshank Redemption, and plenty of others.

    Yet, there may be something about the movie-going experience which makes mediocre films seem better when watched in the theater.

  3. moarscienceplz says

    Titanic, Pulp Fiction, and Fight Club. I did not see the first (and have no intention of doing so), absolutely hated the second, and found the third to be just ok and somewhat contrived.

    The near universal swooning over Titanic was absurd, but I found it mostly enjoyable, although Jack, the begger/philosopher was a bit much.
    Pulp Fiction I see as more a series of vignettes, some good, some bad, some outrageous, but I definitely felt I got my money’s worth.
    Fight Club I absolutely love. I’m not even sure I could articulate why, except to say it weird, but a good weird, unlike a David Lynch kind of weird.

  4. AsqJames says

    I wonder if the praise for Boyhood is inflated partly by the rather unusual (perhaps unique?) process employed in its production? For a layman like me, it seems that some artists (of whatever discipline) are praised as much for “breaking paradigms” and innovation in techniques rather than for the resulting art’s quality/aesthetic value or how well an idea is communicated.

  5. says

    Put me down for being unimpressed by the Matrix too. Though I did find, to the annoyance of the ‘huge fan’ who insisted I watch it with hiim, that if you add “, young Jedi.” to everything Larry Fishburne says, it’s much, much funnier.

  6. rq says

    Dunno, I have three kids. Not really interested in watching how someone else grows up. :/ The idea of the method is interesting (filming over 12 years or however many), but unless there’s a fantastic soundtrack, this movie will not be watched by me.

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