Yo, this be Reuben. I recently gained access to Sky Movies, so for whatever reason last night I decided the first film I’d use this privilege for would be Dazed and Confused. I mean, I know it’s a cult classic, but damn that DVD cover always looked so off-putting in HMV.
Written and directed by a li’l Richard Linklater back in 1993, Dazed and Confused follows the happenings of various high school students on the last day of school in some Texan town in 1976, as they all embark on a quest to get drunk, stoned and laid. Basically, the freshmen and the people already in high school are both involved and go to various places where they get high, talk nonsense and do rebellious things. There’s no story, no deep messages that I noticed, and the script is mostly the word “man” and the direction is seemingly mostly made up of commands like “walk that way and look cool and carefree while doing it”. Consequently, it could easily amount to just being about 2 hours of nothing. But there is enough happening, enough characters and enough comedy to keep a watcher very interested and entertained.
Despite the fact that the only character name I remember is Pink, who I think is basically the main character based on the fact he has the most screen time, I think a strong quality of the film is its abundance of great characters. I mean, it’s not exactly The Big Lebowski, but it is a film driven by its characters and the stupid and oddly endearing things they do and say. Linklater manages to create a convincing atmosphere and it all feels very realistic, with every character having their own unique and entertaining attributes and having a great chemistry with one another. I think what makes the character in the film so great, in fact, is that they don’t seem like characters in a movie, they are just people. And the friendships, tensions and the grudges are all very realistic for the high school situation. All this character and realism makes watching Dazed and Confused feel like walking into an American 70’s party and it’s a damn entertaining thing to be part of, along with doing a really good job in giving an insight into the idiocy and carefree attitude of teenagers.
Something that develops this fundamental quality of the film is the writing. It’s not too in-your-face, and it’s not obnoxious, which gives the film a very nicely casual and chilled atmosphere. It balances stupid, almost slapstick comedy, with subtle, smart comedy; it mixes 17/18-year-olds chasing freshmen with cricket bats and nerdy kids having amusing conversations with ease, to make for a flowing stream of chuckles. Sure, it’s not hilarious, and maybe I would’ve liked to laugh out loud more, but it’s funny, and that’s good.
And, of course, acting is essential to deliver a script. Dazed and Confused has a cast which has a few stars in the making, including a certain little Ben Affleck, little Adam Goldberg and little Matthew McConaughey. I think the whole cast works together fantastically, meaning there aren’t really any star turns in it that particularly stand out amongst the rest.
Another tool that Linklater uses fantastically well in this film is the soundtrack. It’s just good. With tunes ranging from Sweet Emotion to Paranoid, it’s got a really fun atmosphere, and it’s rarely ever silent. The cinematography, too, shouldn’t go without mention because to my untrained eyes it seems quite impressive.
Even so, however well made and realised a film Dazed and Confused is, it’s limited by its lack of story in that it lacks direction, and sometimes it can really trail off into nothingness. There were times when it felt like a standard Aerosmith music video, and times when it felt like I’d already seen the scene before — this scene being the one when a bunch of them are walking somewhere. So, however well made it is, I don’t think it could ever be a truly great film. Sometimes it’s a bit too chilled, a bit too stoned, to the extent that it’s just a bit boring. It felt for the whole thing that something big needed to happen for their to be something for it all to be building up to, but that thing didn’t really happen.
Nonetheless, even if it is limited by its lack of direction, it remains a really entertaining film and one that is probably re-watchable. It’s leaking at its edges with character, fun and groove. It may not be the most fun film ever made, or the most deep film, and it’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s definitely worth a watch, and for what it is, for the most part its really well made.
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