Film Review: Dazed and Confused

As you may have guessed from my previous movie blogs, I have a very specific taste in movies: I like comedy (ideally witty and possibly with the occasional dash of romance), I like retro stuff, and I tend to like quirkier, more offbeat films. So it stands to reason that Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused, made all the way back in 1993, is a film that I absolutely love and come back to time and time again.

If you haven't seen it, it's set in a high school in the Dallas suburbs on the last day of school in 1976, and follows various groups of teenagers as the school year finishes and they mark the beginning of summer through the incoming senior class hazing the freshmen in various ways, followed by a party out in the woods. The 'film about nothing' idea is something that's very common to a lot of Linklater's other films, but for this I think it works really well as the focus falls on the ensemble cast. Ostensibly the main character is Randall 'Pink' Floyd (played by Jason London), the star quarterback who spends large parts of the film wrestling with his conscience to sign a pledge that none of the football players will take drugs, but the sheer array of different age and social groups means that ultimately you end up investing in all the characters and their stories, however they pan out. That's the other great thing about this film; it's very much a 'before they were famous' moment for a lot of those in it, such as Parker Posey, Mila Jovovich, Adam Goldberg and even Ben Affleck as the slightly sadistic O'Bannion. Star turns however have to go to Rory Cochrane as Slater the stoner and Matthew McConaughey as the creepy, sleazy Wooderson, who left high school many years ago but still hangs out with the local teenagers.

The film does have a very offbeat sense of humour and tends to be done in lots of little vignettes, with snippets of different characters' stories interacting with Pink's life and occasionally detouring from him, but in a way that brilliantly captures what teenage life is like in terms of the fleeting moments where you cross paths with other people in your age group. Plus in terms of the overall look of the film it's incredibly well done - girls having their friends help zip them into super-tight jeans with a pair of pliers, boys with collar length hair and oversized shirts whose psychedelic patterns make your eyes hurt - and the 70s soundtrack of Peter Frampton, Alice Cooper, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd and KISS just adds the most fantastic atmosphere. The film also has what may possibly be one of the best endings in cinema - Pink, Wooderson, Slater and Pink's girlfriend, still slightly high from the night before, driving down the freeway to get Aerosmith tickets as Foghat's Slow Ride plays in the background. It just perfectly conveys the whole feeling of the film: that this is about the choices we make and the transitions that come naturally in life, but that you should make sure you have a lot of fun while you're here. As Wooderson says, "You just gotta keep livin' man, L-I-V-I-N".

Ultimately, it's a film that perfectly captures the culture of a period in the recent past with an array of brilliant characters. If you like your films to have more action then this might not be for you, but as a Sunday afternoon film it's a great snapshot of teenagerdom and shows that despite the different times and fashions, some things don't change.

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