Todd Hill’s review published on Letterboxd:
Oh, to be cool. I eliminated a hole in my cinemography by finally catching this teen partying movie, a seminal work by Richard Linklater and one of the pinnacles of the genre. I liked it fine -- as with a lot of Linklater movies, it's just catching the vibe that matters -- but my theory on high school films is that it's the ones you watched when you actually were in school that you'll remember most fondly. For me, that's "American Graffiti" (1973), even though it's set before I was born.
All of that is to say that I don't bring any baggage to this critique. I'm immune to being critically blinded by any affection for it. I can clearly appreciate, however, the career-making performance here by Matthew McConaughey. Although my high school wasn't nearly as swept away by marijuana as the one here (drinking was what my school was all about), I did relate to the freshmen hazing, which I experienced at band camp. By the time I was a senior, it was tamped down considerably, and of course now all hazing is gone. I guess I'm OK with that, although I survived the trauma intact. I liked seeing Ben Affleck as the one dick in the senior class who takes hazing way too seriously; good casting choice.
Although the movie doesn't have a structural core, its thematic core is clearly the freshman played by Wiley Wiggins. Because he chooses to not sweat the hazing and agrees to hang out with some seniors later that night, he acquires cool, while also getting lucky with a girl. Yeah, he'll do fine in high school. Just be cool, man, and the world WILL turn.
Letterboxd Review No. 339