GUEST COLUMN: A Look at Linklater (Part 3 of 4)

Photo: Warner Bros.

Photo: Warner Bros.

Chris Zois

Linklater has always floated in and out of Hollywood. It’s a commendable thing for directors to have a “one for them, one for me” mentality, but if you’re going to do that, there’s no shame in injecting a bit of your own personality in a “one for them.” This era, in a sense, is when Linklater was a hired gun, sure he put out two or three of his own films, but starting in 2003, his Hollywood commitments starting seeming more like him simply cashing in a paycheque.


School of Rock plays to many of Linklater’s sensibilities, such as being an outsider. Kids rebelling against their parents by learning rock music? My word, what a world we live in! The film has its merits, including a Golden Globe-nominated performance by Jack Black and some wonderfully written songs, but chalk School of Rock under the category of Hollywood flair. (3½ stars out of 5)


Going back to his roots with Before Sunset should have had Linklater making a film similar to the first one in the series, but something seemed amiss in this one. That’s not to say that this notch in his belt isn’t a good one – in fact, it’s a great one – but unlike Before Sunrise, there seems to be no spark from the first and instead the two characters feel like they’re just wasting time. Perhaps this is because the two characters, and even Linklater himself, had matured beyond the melodrama of one’s 20s. (4 stars out of 5)


While growing up is all fine and well, Linklater’s next outing was him ripening to the world of being a hired-gun director and was an utter disappointment. His lifeless remake of Bad News Bears showed no personality, in either Linklater’s style or characters. There’s really no need to even dwell on this movie any longer, unless you’re a masochist or a Greg Kinnear enthusiast. (1½ stars out of 5)


After dipping his toes in the pool of Hollywood filmmaking, Linklater’s next two films, A Scanner Darkly and Fast Food Nation, are interesting exercises in both style and storytelling. A Scanner Darkly was shot and rotoscoped similarly to Waking Life. Keanu Reeves plays an undercover cop who’s trying to track down the supplier of a new hallucinatory drug and stays undercover by wearing a suit that distorts his appearance. It’s actually quite fascinating and the film serves as a metaphor about identity and government watching. (3½ stars out of 5)


Like A Scanner Darkly, Fast Food Nation also suffers from bad timing, which is a common thread in his catalogue. The film was plagued with repeated delays and finally released in the dead of summer to little fanfare. Linklater’s releases often came out at odd times, which contribute to their box office struggles. Fast Food Nation certainly suffered at the hands of that same, recurring fate, although it may also have been bogged down by its huge cast and over-the-top bluntness. (2½ stars out of 5)