Daily Archives: April 17, 2015

Richard Linklater & The ‘Wise Kid’ Motif

I am a fan of Richard Linklater’s direction. That said, I’ve not seen all his films. Looking at the 20 or so films he has directed (as listed on IMDB), I have seen 10. There is a recurring motif in his films that I am fond of. One I call the ‘Wise Kid’ motif. In crude terms, a character desiring something more, and becoming aware of circumstance and the pitfalls of aspiring to be cool.

I do not mean cool in the obvious sense. Like John Travolta in Grease or Harry Winkler in Happy Days. This more obvious sense of cool means that the characters are represented by films and perceived by the audience in such a way, where the character’s traits transfers into the public imagination and becomes some one to emulate, to dress like, to talk like and so forth. I don’t think there have been characters from Linklater’s films where this has occurred. Rather, the more subtle cool that Linklater is able to create, is one that allows the viewer to identify and empathise with, an on-screen character’s aspiration to fit in. In many of his films, it does not appear to me that Linklater’s primary aim is to create or represent an obvious kind of ‘cool’. Rather, he tries to curate stories about trying to fit in. The ideal fit people search for, is altogether a more subtle kind of cool. The ‘wise kid’ motif provides a prism through which one could sympathise with the character’s aspirations to be cool, and yet, become aware of its problems.

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