Where’d You Go, Bernadette opens this week. While it’s not Richard Linklater’s first commercial film (Bad News Bears, School of Rock), it does appear to be wholly unlike anything else he’s ever done.
I’ve been following Linklater for a while and he’s one of my favorite filmmakers. Below is a list of my favorite Linklater movies. (Note: This is not The Essential Richard Linklater. Because then I’d have to include Dazed and Confused. Sorry, that one’s just overrated to me.)
Linklater pulled off one of the most amazing feats in cinema history with this one. We get to watch a boy grow up over the course of the film. And he’s played by the same actor at every age! Linklater had the patience to shoot the scenes once a year or once every few years throughout Ellar Coltrane’s life.
The fact that he was able to do this with the same cast over a period of twelve years without the world finding out is amazing. (And without anyone dying, quitting, etc.) This movie was such a beautiful surprise when it came out and remains a gift to the world.
The Before Trilogy
In 1995, Linklater made one of the essential 90s romances, Before Sunrise. It features Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy killing time together and falling in love, before having to part ways. If that was all he’d ever made, it would stand alone as a beautiful, unique, romantic film.
Instead, he made a sequel nearly a decade later called Before Sunset where the two meet up again in Paris while Hawke is on a book tour. They are each spoken for, but the spark is still there. Again, if these two bookends were all there is to the story, it would be enough.
But then the artists reunited to make Before Midnight. The final film in the trilogy deals with love and family at midlife, and all the complications that come with them.
Slacker was Linklater’s debut film. It’s a meandering piece where the camera follows an odd assortment of characters through a Texas town, moving from one interaction to the next, never returning to any of the storylines. It probably sits somewhere at the intersection of Robert Altman and David Lynch. One of the film’s most famous moments involves a woman being arrested as someone passes by, musing, “I know her. She was in my ethics class.”
Waking Life is a documentary where the film cells were painted over/animated. It features Wiley Wiggins trying to determine if he is awake or in a dream state as he encounters various talking heads. It’s a visually beautiful film that is philosophical and haunting.
School of Rock
This is probably Linklater’s most accessible film. A substitute teacher turns a classroom full of children into a rock band to try to win a local Battle of the Bands competition. Jack Black gives one of his best performances without going over the top. Writer Mike White who also cameos delivers a great story. So great in fact, that Andrew Lloyd Weber turned it into a stage musical. It works surprisingly well. This is a great feel-good movie.
Everybody Wants Some
This movie is about the members of a college baseball team bonding together at the start of the school year in the 1980s. It’s sort of an older cousin to Dazed and Confused. The main character, Jake (Blake Jenner), is figuring out who he wants to be. This comedy was the first movie I watched after my grandfather’s death and I remember it lifting my spirits with its goofy charm.
It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock’n’roll. It’s also a long wait to go to the bathroom if you’re gonna white knuckle it until the end credits.
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