So OK, this is a goofy, overly playful documentary about a famed director who's been making movies ever since 1991. His name is Richard Linklater. He's an innovator, a man of varied ideals, and it seems like he's never really helmed the same flick twice (unless you count 2006's A Scanner Darkly and 2001's Waking Life as both being rotoscoped which is a unique animation technique). With his critically acclaimed Boyhood currently starting to gain Oscar momentum, it seems kind of fitting that 78 minutes would be devoted to his life as an oil rig worker turned indie legend. Sadly, 21 Years: Richard Linklater was not the right way to honor this guy nor does it do Rick any justice (at least that's what all his actor friends are calling him these days).
Now by and large, Linklater's Altmanesque Dazed and Confused and Tape made me a huge fan. They are both talked about via this documentary but in a totally one-sided way. A lot is mentioned about "Dazed" where almost no insight is given into Tape, a wholly original exercise told frighteningly in real time. And therein lies the problem with "21 Years". Not only does this thing not get any interviews from the great Linklater himself, it jumps around without talking about his films chronologically. Just recently, I watched something about the late Steve McQueen titled Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool. That vehicle (ha ha, get it) went over all of the actor's work in order and in detail. On the flip side, this loose, pasted-together doc leaves a lot of Richard's stuff out. It keeps reverting back to his auspicious debut which would be Slacker. Sure, that thing was revolutionary and probably inspired a lot of dudes to go out and get 16 mm cameras. But the guy has done about 25 films in his career and I think "21 Years" forgets to fully mention half of them (Fast Food Nation, Tape, Suburbia, the previously mentioned Waking Life, and $5.15/Hr. don't get so much as a blurb). It also doesn't help that a lot of "21's" scenes are interspersed with mounds of unnecessary animation explaining the origin of how his endeavors came together. It just seems so out of place and probably not what Linklater would have wanted, only what the directors of "21 Years" wanted (I kept asking myself if Michael Dunaway and Tara Wood actually knew Linklater personally. It's as if they were too scared to get advisement from him and instead just talked to everyone around him). Truth be told, I think that all the people who worked on 21 Years: Richard Linklater probably enjoyed making it a lot more than the audience who had to sit through it.
Oh and don't get me started on some of the interviews from actors that have worked with Richard in the past. They come off as embarrassing with the normally refreshing Matthew McConaughey projecting himself as a complete tool (enough with the "alright, alright, alright" already) and Keanu Reeves making virtually no sense while calling Linklater a f***ing a**hole (gee, what a nice guy). Only Ethan Hawke, his friend, collaborator, and true confident adds a deeper meaning to the proceedings. However, his honest presence when talking about his relationship with Rick only feels like it belongs in another mosaic about someone's life, a better one at that.
All in all, 21 Years: Richard Linklater plays like a documentary in which no one involved ever thought it would actually be greenlighted or for lack of a better word, be distributed to various film festivals. It's obvious that Linklater had virtually no involvement in the making of "21 Years". We hear from everyone but the man himself. And although I'm sure he feels grateful for all his cohorts praising him, if he had any creative control, there is no way he'd approved 90-95% of what was on screen.
I as a critic, wanted more background on the guy in general, his childhood for instance and the films or oddities at which he decided to pursue his passion (or again, maybe an interview involving the actual man). Oh well, at least some of "21 Years" is mildly entertaining (this thing however, has outtakes during the closing credits. Please no more of this! This is a plea to everyone who makes movies). In the end, it's ultimately a drag man. Result: 2 Stars and that's being generous.
Of note: As much as 21 Years: Richard Linklater irked me, I was enthralled by Kevin Smith's admission in it that Slacker was the film that inspired him to be a director. I also forgot about how many dolly shots Slacker was comprised of (this is explained in "21 Years" by fans who've made it cult-worthy). Man, I just have to see that micro budget drama again stat!