It’s one thing to be a perfectionist, another to enjoy the work, and something else entirely to spend two decades making a single movie. Jackson McHenry of Vulture seems to describe Richard Linklater’s process of taking the next 20 years to develop another version of Merrily We Roll Along as an artist’s prerogative and a chance to create something that people will be willing to wait for. I’ll be honest, I’m not even going to get into the idea of the movie since there are two very distinct ways to look at it, possibly more depending on who you ask. You can likely imagine what I’m going to say even before I say it in this case, and that’s the idea that Linklater seems to be forgetting that many upon many fans of both movies and musicals seem more inclined to move on to the next project rather than wait for a significant portion of their life for the next big thing to come out.
Let’s start off by saying that art is important to our society, at least from a social standpoint. It’s a part of culture, of how we as human beings express ourselves and view the world around us. Without art a lot of people would likely state that the world becomes a little dimmer, though this too is up for debate since human beings tend to pull from the world many different elements that help to make the art that we present to others. So it’s safe to say that if there was no art there would still be art thanks to nature. But while appreciating art is also important and the idea of trying to figure out every nuance, every movement, and every piece of it is impressive, it seems a little, well, presumptuous at times. I would say arrogant and stuffy but those words seem best reserved for those that consider themselves to be high-brow and somehow superior to others. In this instance it would simply seem that Linklater is, for reasons only he might understand, being careful, appreciative, and so finely attached to every detail that he’s willing to spend an inordinate amount of time making a movie that in the end might only be special to him and a select few fans.
Another way to say it of course is to be dismissive, call him nuts, and state that he simply doesn’t want to work too hard on anything, which seems quite unfair and more than a little petty. There’s a method to his madness no doubt but it’s not bound to be fully understood by those of us that know that things in the entertainment industry move quick and we, as a rule need to keep up or move even quicker in order to capture it all. What Linklater is doing requires those that have the patience and the time to understand and the experience to realize that he’s doing something that’s special and meaningful to him as well as possibly groundbreaking. It might be hard to see but at the same time it’s hard to see anything that a person is doing until they really explain it and show you the full scope that they’re working with. At this point there’s no doubt a few people that are wondering just how anything could take twenty years to create in the entertainment industry unless it’s being brought up and then shelved continually. But this is a conscious effort that Linklater is executing and until he’s ready to give us the full experience it’s easy to see that some people are going to dismiss it and others are going to be patient and wait to see what comes.
When you think about it twenty years is and isn’t a great length of time. To those that haven’t lived more than a couple of decades it’s their entire life, everything they can remember, and everything that really matters to them. Those of us that have been around for a while though know from experience that twenty years can go by quicker than we think since it seems like just yesterday to some of us that we were young and ready to take on the world. Remember those days? We thought we knew a lot because we were young, we had the capacity to learn, and a lot of us didn’t want to be told that we had a lifetime of learning to do? That’s part of what might be happening now since no matter how mature you are in your younger years, there’s still plenty to learn, and among that plethora of wisdom comes patience. So you might think that Linklater has a few screws loose for wanting to take so long to create his next movie, especially since he’ll be an old man when it’s all over and done with, but keep in mind, as Evan Minsker of Pitchfork might agree, there’s always a method behind the madness.