Movie Review: ’21 Years: Richard Linklater’ A Glorified DVD Extra That Leaves Us Wanting to Know More


Preston Barta // Film Critic

21 YEARS: RICHARD LINKLATER | 78 min. | Not Rated | Director: Michael Dunaway, Tara Wood | Stars: Keanu Reeves, Matthew McConaughey, Billy Bob Thornton, Zac Efron, Ethan Hawke, Kevin Smith, Jack Black, Parker PoseyJoey Lauren Adams, Julie Delpy, Jason ReitmanMarissa RibisiLouis BlackAnthony RappSteven Chester Prince, Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass

As we have said before in our review for Richard Linklater’s BOYHOOD, people go to the movie for numerous reasons: to laugh, to be frightened, or simply to get a break from life and enjoy the show. Linklater has been making movies that do all the above for the last two decades, delivering one unique experience after the other. What Christopher Nolan is doing with mainstream cinema – pushing further than what we are used to seeing – Linklater is doing with independent cinema, and it always hits home.

Linklater, who grew up in Texas, has a truly impressive filmography. He has directed quiet, stunning films such as DAZED AND CONFUSED, which chronicled the ‘70s teenage youth; the BEFORE trilogy (BEFORE SUNRISE, BEFORE SUNSET, and BEFORE MIDNIGHT), which showed how the passage of time affects and changes people in the most profound ways; and BERNIE, a comedy-drama that traces a small-town Texas mortician.

Yeah, Linklater may not be a household name like Quentin Tarantino, a highly outspoken director who is prompt to self-promote. Linklater plays it cool and quiet instead. He makes the films he wants to make, and he deserves to be credited as one of the best auteurs in film history.

Matthew McConaughey is one of the many interviewees to speak about Richard Linklater.

Matthew McConaughey is one of the many interviewees to speak about Richard Linklater.

21 YEARS: RICHARD LINKLATER merely skims the surface of what could be a really great documentary. Instead of plunging into the analysis and understanding of Linklater as a filmmaker, we mainly get taking-heads speaking of how great he is, how they link to his work, memories of when they first saw his movies, and experiences on set. Don’t get me wrong, this is great stuff. Some of these interviews are quite colorful. Plus, it’s always fun to watch a movie’s special features to see how the filmmakers created the magic and hear what actors have to say. But as a documentary that isn’t a DVD extra or a television tribute video, you want more out of it.

Ethan Hawke offers the most insight into how the director operates and his leadership, but you’re left wanting to know more about what he was faring in his lifespan at the time that he arrived at each film, what was going through his head- you want to hear from the man himself among other matters.

21 YEARS is essential viewing for Linklater fans, but it’s not your rush to the theater kind of doc.

21 YEARS: RICHARD LINKLATER is playing in theaters in Houston, TX, and is also available on select on iTunes.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction ( as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.