Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny (2016)

Directed by Louis Black, Karen Bernstein

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I love the films of Richard Linklater.  I’m obsessed with his perspective of the world, his focus on time.  I even downloaded Before Sunset onto my phone so I could listen to it like a podcast on long drives.  If I could be a filmmaker, it’d be Richard Linklater, so of course I’m going to watch another documentary about him, even if it were to state what I already know.  Dream is Destiny, though, offers up new insight into Linklater’s past, his habits and his filmmaking career.  The title comes from a moment in Linklater’s Waking Life (2001), one of his more experimental films (in some ways Slacker 2.0), and the documentary focuses on Linklater’s everyman quality, his work ethic and his career spent mainly outside the Hollywood system.

The documentary is co-directed by Louis Black, the co-founder and editor of The Austin Chronicle, a newspaper in the Texas town where Linklater has spent much of his life.  He and Linklater have known each other for years, even before Black showed up in a scene in Linklater’s Slacker, filmed in 1989 and released in 1991.  The documentary thrives because of the closeness between Black (who makes multiple onscreen appearances) and Linklater.

The narrative briefly describes Linklater’s upbringing, through Huntsville, Houston and ultimately Austin.  The most fascinating portion to me was about the roots of the Austin Film Society.  Linklater describes his need for this kind of film community, and it lent him a group of like-minded people to work with.  He never could’ve made Slacker without the help of those around him, even despite how small the film is.

There are interesting insights into Linklater’s first film, It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading BooksSlacker and his first studio film, Dazed and Confused.  There’s even plenty to say about the Before trilogy, but the documentary glosses over Linklater’s lesser known or less well received films.  These include the period piece The Newton Boys as well as a run of films in the mid 200s, including Fast Food NationBad News Bears and Me and Orson Welles.

The narrative scans through these films like any Linklater fan looking at his filmography.  Yes, there’s a lot to say about Linklater’s celebrated works, but I think there’s just as much to learn about his other films.  How did Linklater end up directing a studio comedy like Bad News Bears?  What did he learn from this experience?

Looking at his filmography, it’s not hard to imagine that Linklater’s films might have been waning in quality at this time period.  Following Before Sunset in 2004, his subsequent films received mixed to negative reviews until 2011’s Bernie, a film which coincided with Matthew McConaughey’s ‘McConaussaince.’  Maybe it was Linklater’s renaissance too, a film with a certain amount of character that the studio films were missing.  While there is something to be taken from those previous three films, they all feel relatively uninspired, just a talented director executing a mediocre story.

After Bernie, however, Linklater made Before Midnight and finished his 12 year project, Boyhood.  Then he makes 2015’s Everybody Wants Some!!, a movie I’d argue is just as good as Dazed and Confused.

So, I guess I just have a few questions about the perceived lulls in Linklater’s career.  I’ve listened to enough interviews and read enough about his critical successes and the stories behind them, but I want to know more about his failures and how he rebounded from them.  The documentary does address his decision to continue working outside the studio system and make more experimental films like Waking Life (all filmed on digital video and then animated) as well as Tape, another digital video film but shot entirely in a single motel room.

So, this is just another overview of a filmmaker’s career, and we hear from many of Linklater’s longtime collaborators, whether it’s Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy or his editor Sandra Adair.  We listen in on rehearsals for Everybody Wants Some!! and we get to see behind the scenes footage from some of his earliest films.  These brief insights are awesome, regardless of context.  It’s just so cool to see, and this is the closest thing I get to being a ‘fanboy.’  It’s like watching original behind the scenes footage of Star Wars or Jesus.

Up Next: The Seven Year Itch (1955), 50/50 (2011), The Beguiled (2017)

 

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