Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused ★★★★★

I was hesitant to rewatch this with my mom, but she ended up loving it, albeit after she criticized the recklessness of 70s teens a bunch of times. I first saw it around the time I was getting back into movies in high school, and it left a huge impression on me as did all of Richard Linklater’s films. Few years later, now I’m a full fledged Linklater head who’ll never miss a movie of his (yes I saw Last Flag Flying which is actually solid and Bernadette which is meh) so when amazon prime added this it felt like the movie gods answered a prayer.

The gang is still as funny as ever, from the witty Adam Goldberg and Anthony Rapp to the fresh faced junior high kids dying to move on up all the way to a pre-Oscar winning Ben Affleck, who relishes the opportunity to go full meathead on us. Parker Posey rocks the first 20 minutes of the picture with such delight. Wiley Wiggins is the heart of this movie, but I’m sorry the kid’s just a bad actor. It works for his character, who essentially is playing what the title of the movie suggests, but all his friends are far more convincing performers.

Matthew McConaughey belongs in a class with Harrison Ford and Sean Penn as actors who got put on the map playing pathetic lowlives that manage to be the coolest darn character in their respective movies. Whereas in Fast Times in Ridgemont High you start to feel bad for Penn’s character, McConaughey fully embraces the ugliness of his character and Linklater shoots him in a way that never allows you to get too close to him, you pick up just the good vibes and none of the bad. The badassery of him walking into the club with “Hurricane” blasting is what every film student wishes they can capture.

“Tuesday’s Gone” coming in right after the fight scene serves as the climax of the film, it’s the beat that most normal high school movies would treat in a overly dramatic fashion. Linklater shoots it so casually that you’re hit emotionally way harder because we’ve all been in Goldberg’s position before. There’s no intense background score while you overcome the odds and impress the girl, you instead get your ass handed to you. The song is like a remedy to heal the pain, while serving as a reminder that their days of hanging around is close to gone, you either get your act together or end up like Wooderson.

I think what makes this and Everybody Wants Some!! so fun is how it isn’t focused on anything except having a good time. American Graffiti features a Richard Dreyfuss character who hits every dreamer in his/her 20s in the feels, whereas Dazed wants you to meet everybody but never get too close to them, so that by the time the movie ends it’s just another night out. This is Linklater’s version of an experimental film, hear me out on this. It throws structure and a driving narrative out the window for a constant playfulness and a couple of beers. It manages to maintain a traditional hangout movie style while challenging the viewer to go along for the ride even if they don’t have a straight man to root for. Slacker didn’t have those crowd pleasing moments, so it’s the ability to balance art house ideas with a style that appeals to everybody in this picture that makes it so special. “You just gotta keep livin’ man, L-I-V-I-N...” How the fuck does McConaughey manage to have all the iconic lines despite barely being in it? What a beast.

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