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21 Years: Richard Linklater | Review

Just alright, alright, alright: Friends Laud Linklater’s Adulthood

Michael Dunaway Tara Wood's  21 Years: Richard Linklater Traditionally speaking, retrospectives of prominent people tend to transpire as an ode after the fact or as a memoriam piece. Though the director has an impressive number of films under his belt, recently topped by the critically acclaimed and charmer Boyhood, Michael Dunaway and Tara Wood’s 21 Years: Richard Linklater seems to come at an incidental time–it demarcating or capitalizing on what is unclear. Composed mostly of star-studded (Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, Jack Black to name a few) albeit conventional talking heads reminiscing on their working relationships with Linklater, the documentary does not articulate any unprecedented insight or exclusive commentary. Ultimately the effort feels lackluster though it will most likely find a place of honor within the insular community and cult following that Linklater has cultivated.

Linklater’s own quote “the truth will only be told over a career” introduces a pastiche of colleagues singing praises, clips of his work and Linklater himself, and paltry animation that fails to break up the monotony. They describe the auteur as an actors’ director and elaborate upon his open-minded approach to filmmaking that allows dialogue to be improvised and things to just happen as they come. Aptly put, this idiosyncratic style and collaborative spirit has created a viable brand for Linklater whose work showcases willingly returning actors and has spurred like-minded projects. The insight that the actors and colleagues share is gracious but never truly rises above niceties (though McConaughey’s energy is rather contagious). Although interesting to hear about the inside trade, the audience is kept at bay, never offered a full invitation to see or experience the man behind the films. Even an intimate behind the scene every now and then would have helped to emphasize the filmmakers Dunaway and Wood’s enthusiasm for the director and his successful yet under-the-radar career.

The documentary is short of extraordinary; it skims the surface of a filmmaker who not only seemingly created his brand with his own two hands but also helped put a city on the filmmaking map. Since his early beginnings circa 1991’s Slacker, the Austinite has become a main pillar in the city’s growing film community in taking an active role in building and fortifying the filmmaking spirit such as co-founding the Austin Film Society. Amicably referred to as Rick, he is one of the more prominent faces to a cultural hub that is so divergent from typical Hollywood. If Hollywood is the bratty popular cool clique, then Austin’s the stoners. And if Linklater’s success is any indicator, people find that distinction pretty alright, alright, alright.


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