MOVIE "Apollo 10 1/2"
WHERE Streaming on Netflix
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Richard Linklater crafts a cinematic memoir about growing up in suburban Houston in the shadow of NASA during the late 1960s, when the space race seemed to define everyday life.
In "Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood," Linklater utilizes an advanced version of the rotoscoping technique he used in his earlier films "Waking Life" and "A Scanner Darkly," where scenes are shot with actors and then painted over with animation.
The approach allows the picture to play as a series of memories that function in the way our recollections often do: as a collage of fact and fiction, an assembling of true experiences and those that have grown in our minds to the point where the question of whether they happened or not is hardly even relevant.
It's the story of a fourth-grader named Stan (Milo Coy), the youngest of six kids, growing up on an everyday suburban street in El Lago, Texas, circa 1968-69.
As narrated by his older self (Jack Black) Stan remembers staples of his youth: his mother's wisdom and ingenuity; his father's dependability and knack for finding ways to save a few bucks; entertaining friends on New Year's Eve; gathering for appointment TV like "Dark Shadows" after school; playing Little League Baseball and so much more.
But there's more: young Stan is also secretly recruited by NASA to test out the lunar module on a journey to the moon just before Apollo 11's voyage.
MY SAY Linklater specializes in a low-key filmmaking style that at first suggests an almost casual approach, before sneaking up on the audience with an emotional wallop.
He's perfected that in everything from commercial Hollywood endeavors ("School of Rock") to small character studies (the "Before Sunrise" trilogy).
"Apollo 10½" unfolds in that familiar vein, with scenes that function as a scrapbook of period pop culture staples — there's the aforementioned TV time, where Stan excitedly describes the entire weekly viewing schedule, or his ode to game night
Linklater offers an ode to different styles of jumping into a pool and the joy of a Frito pie (a bag of Fritos with chili poured on top, not that this writer would know anything about that); a trip to the Astroworld theme park: there's not a rush toward a profound or dramatic place.
But Stan's sheltered adolescence is surrounded by flickers of something more, faraway specters that become increasingly more real: horrors in Vietnam and racial strife at home. The duck-and-cover threats of the Cold War. His parents' insecurities.
The character struggles to make sense of how such things might coexist with the wonder and majesty of space travel and the promise of a technologically advanced future.
In its unhurried fashion, amid its nostalgic staples, Linklater's movie finds its way toward something that for Stan is even more consequential than a journey toward another world: the beginning of the rest of his life.
BOTTOM LINE This is a beautiful cinematic memoir that's worthwhile family viewing.