21 Years: Richard Linklater

Directors: Michael Dunaway, Tara Wood.
Featuring: Keanu Reeves, Ethan Hawke, Matthew McConaughey, Jack Black, Billy Bob Thornton, Zac Efron, Greg Kinnear, Nicky Katt, Jason Reitman, Kevin Smith, Joey Lauren Adams, Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass, Michael McKean, Parker Posey, Julie Delpy.

“Eighteen films. One legend”

They say that a career should never be judged until 21 years have past and although it’s hard to believe, director Richard Linklater has now achieved this milestone. As a result, filmmakers Michael Dunaway and Tara Wood decide to shine some light and appreciation on one of the most inventive and daring of contemporary American filmmakers.

Sadly, Linklater himself doesn’t actually feature in this documentary but we do get contributions from a whole host of reputable actors that have known or worked with him. The enthusiasm from collegues such as Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke and Keanu Reeves on Linklater’s intelligence and approach to filmmaking is infectious and their anecdotes and insights into his work are a joy. However, it’s only really Hawke (his most common collaborator) who seems to fully know what makes him tick. If you’re a fan of Linklater and have a sound knowledge of his work then there’s nothing here that you won’t already know and the film, unfortunately, doesn’t really shed any light on the man personally.

Dunaway and Wood’s primary focus seems to be a brief commentary on all the manner of genres that Linklater has tackled: Sports flick, Bad News Bears; Period piece, Me and Orson Welles; Western, The Newton Boys and Sci-Fi, A Scanner Darkly all get a look in while highlighting his lack of pretension and his ability to dig deeper into more meaningful and intelligent projects. The authenticity of Dazed and Confused and the walk-and-talk theatrics of the Before trilogy get the most focus (the latter being humorously referred to by actor/director Mark Duplass as the lowest grossing trilogy of all time). This focus may, like myself, leave some viewers disappointed that the marvellous work of Waking Life gets very little discussion yet it’s probably his most thought provoking film and shadows the fact that, to begin with, Linklater was a philosopher that just happened to choose celluloid as the medium in which to express himself.

The tidbit of information I found most surprising, however, was the dialogue throughout his films. Although much of it seems like improvisation due to the encouragement he gives his actors – to be free and loose – it’s actually verbatim. This makes it all the more impressively delivered when you look at how his films are structured.

As expected, Linklater’s penchant for the themes of alienated characters and the social constructs of America are also explored and how he effortlessly evolves through his work while working diversely between Independent and bigger productions. It also highlights the effort that Linklater has made in support of Independent filmmaking and how he was influential in helping create the Austin Film Society whereby old film prints could be saved and showed, as well as raising money from filmmakers to help make more films.Overall, it does little but scratch the surface and a bit more in-depth analysis to his films would have been welcome but to paraphrase Billy Bob Thornton on the outtakes at the end; “Rick Linklater doesn’t need anyone to make a documentary about him. He’s fine“. However, a film that runs a mere 78mins is hardly demanding and although it’s not as informative as it could’ve been, it’s still a pleasant appreciation.Mark Walker

Trivia: It’s still not known whether this type of documentary will be a regular series but in 2016, Tara Wood will be focusing on another influential director with 21 Years: Quentin Tarantino.


26 Responses to “21 Years: Richard Linklater”

  1. Very cool. Too bad it doesn’t go into more depth but I’d be curious to check this out as I’ve only barely scratched the surface of Linklater’s filmography myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you’re still at the point of discovering more Linklater then this might work quite well for you, man. It’s a pleasant little doc that shows the enthusiasm that some quality filmmakers have for Linklater.


  2. Shame this doesn’t feature the man himself. I read your Suburbia review the other day by the way…I wouldn’t say it’s one of Linklater’s best but it is still under-appreciated so it was good to see that get some attention! I’ve seen most of his films but this made me realise there’s a few I need to track down, like the Newton Boys. The only ones I don’t really care for are the Before films, although it’s not like I hate them. I just don’t rate them as highly as other people seem to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, man! Linklater’s absence is quite glaring but it’s an entertaining little piece nonetheless. It’s a shame that Waking Life doesn’t get much focus, though. That’s the film that requires a bit more in-depth analysis. I’ve still to catch up with Me and Orson Welles but other than that I’ve seen all his films. I hear what you’re saying regarding the Before trilogy. I don’t think it’s as good as many people claim but it’s impressive and I’m actually hoping to catch them all back to back before I make a final judgement.


      • Rather you than me Mr W, rather you than me! Haha. I’m being unfair, I love or like most of his films and I agree with you re Waking Life. I was stoned when I watched that and it made perfect sense. His next one sounds good…possibly closest thing he’s done to a Dazed and Confused follow up, but I don’t want to jinx it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Man, I used to get stoned on a regular basis to Waking Life. It’s the perfect film for those who enjoy partaking in such a thing. I must dig out the shrooms for my next viewing. 😉


      • Excellent! I miss those days. It was always Blade Runner and Koyaanisqatsi for me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I dig your style, Stu. A man after my own heart. Blade Runner and Koyaanisqatsi are masterpieces. Great flicks to get nutted with 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmmmm, this looks rather interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is quite an entertaining little documentary, Zoe. I was hoping for a bit more personal details on Linklater but I enjoyed it all the same and it’s good to hear some great actors give their opinion on the man.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review, Mark! I’m a very big fan of Linklater so I really need to watch this one, even though it sounds like I won’t learn a lot. An in-depth documentary would be nice as well. I mean, his real-life involvement with the guy from his Bernie film is nuts! That story alone would make for an interesting documentary. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • An in-depth documentary on the man is well overdue but in the meantime this’ll do. I didn’t learn much from this but I was still entertained. If you like Linklater this is an easy 70 odd minutes to spend.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I saw this on the other night and had no idea what it I was. I kinda wish I had DVR’d it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It was alright, but like you say it does lack depth…still a fun little timewaster

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I wonder why they wouldn’t get him involved?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well alright alright alright! This one passed me by like a ship in the night so will add it to the growing list. Top notch Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. abbiosbiston Says:

    One of my favourite directors. Definitely want to see this.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Paragraph Film Reviews Says:

    Never heard of this, but can’t wait to catch it. Linklater fascinates me as someone that’s always striving to push his films and do WHATEVER IT TAKES to make his visions come on the screen.

    It’s a shame he’s not in this, and somewhat surprising, as he’s quite charismatic and enthusiastic in docs like Side by Side.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Linklater’s absence is a strange one, man. I reckon it could have been a cash-in as Boyhood would have been around this time. That’s actually the film’s biggest flaw. It doesn’t shed any light on Linklater personally and that really could have added another level of enjoyment. Sadly, it wasn’t to be but it’s a fun little appreciation anyway.
      Apparently a Tarantino one is next and it’ll be interesting to see if he appears.


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