Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused ★★★★½

Included In Lists:
Criterion Collection - #336
Ladies and Gentlemen: The Essentials -#19

Review In A Nutshell:

Dazed and Confused is about a group of students who are heading off to senior year, decides to have a fun and wild time during the last day of the school year.

The first thing that came into my mind when watching this film was George Lucas' American Graffiti. This is because both films follows the same concept of the final day of the school year before transitioning to the next phase in their life, which for the students in this film would be senior year. At first I thought it was an odd choice to focus on students only transitioning to senior year as it doesn't seem like a big change, unlike American Graffiti which was a the jump from high school/boyhood to college/adulthood, but by the end of the film, it was clear on what the rationale was for that decision. Senior year is the time when the decisions made in this time would determine, or at least majorly influence, the path of their future. But not every teenager is aware of this idea, as they are too wrapped in their own world where the priorities seem to focus on things that are happening during the present rather than later on. Our "main" protagonist, Randall Floyd, is one of the only few characters in the film who are aware of that idea; which is similar to the character Curt in American Graffiti. Randall is the only character in the film that possesses a true complication, and it is about a contract that he has to sign regarding to playing football next year. The entire film doesn't emphasise on it, making it only as a recurring topic, like in real life, on certain moments of the night. It explores the idea of commitment in a very subtle way, showing us that at certain moments you have to make a decision on which path you would take. By the end of the film, he doesn't seem to choose a path that was laid out for him, instead he has chosen something that suits him, as one shouldn't follow what other people decide for you and that it is possible to have your cake and eat it too, as long as you are sure that what you choose is what you want and is good for you.

The film doesn't follow Randall alone, as the film has a broad range of characters with most given enough screen time for the audience to remember. There are two particular characters that are also given the same treatment as Randall, and those are Mitch and Sabrina. Both are about to become freshmen students in high school, and each one gets invited by a senior student to get a taste and explore their lifestyle of high school. Similar to Randall, they too are faced with a decision that they would intrinsically have to make, which is to decide what path they would walk on once they hit high school, and by the end of it, it is clear which way they will go. It was wonderful that Linklater was able to give us this youthful and innocent perspective of the 70s high school culture as their lifestyle and values seems to be much more emphasised when explored this way. When the film explores the life of high school through the eyes of a senior, it glorifies the experience as drugs, alcohol, sex and violence as they are their main source of entertainment that high school students look for, or at least what they are supposed to look for. The freshman perspective is much more tamed, as we see the effect it has on these characters. They aren't seen as corrupted or failures, they're instead seen as boys or girls who want to be accepted or to be adored just like them. It's truly embarrassing to see what these young children have to go through in order for them to feel accepted or to even get that small feeling of belonging in them. What's worse is that these ideas are still found in the youth of today, with young boys and girls doing what they can in order to feel superior like the people who hurt them in the first place, just executed along the trends of contemporary society. Not everyone can relate to the events that happen in this film of course, as every person's experience in high school is different, I certainly didn't half of the things that they did on the film, but I am aware of the fact that other people have and their experience of it is roughly similar.

Don't come into this film thinking that there will be a significant plot to follow as there isn't one. Audiences are instead treated with an "adventure" that brings people back or at least give a sense of idea of high school life within that decade. Since my youth was a product of the late 90s and the 2000s, I couldn't completely gain a sense of true nostalgia as compared to someone who has lived in or closer to that particular time period, but I was able to gain a comprehensive idea of what their lifestyle was like. The film shows us that the general hangout area was for the students back then was in game arcades that included games like Billiards and Foosball. It really makes you think about your own generation and what and where you would go to find entertainment. People, when they get older, usually look back in their younger years, probably loathing at themselves and sometimes forgetting the lifestyle that they used to live, this film acts as a time capsule that can be revisited, hopefully bringing up old memories whether good or bad of a time that people seem to have forgotten.

The film's photography was satisfying, giving the actors the space and range to do what they want in order to make their characters feel and look like figures of that time period. The film was able to sneak in references to the art of that time period particularly music, which is something Linklater is fond of, found in the background of shots. Seeing references to Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin puts a smile on my face, but then again I am biased as these are things that I am a huge fan of; also praises goes towards the art department for having them on there. The director and cinematographer are not concerned with the technical aspect of the film, they are more focused on capturing the look and feel of a particular period in time, kind of like watching a Merchant-Ivory film, where it successfully sucks you in the world that the filmmakers have created while also retaining that sense of accuracy that certain period films fail to implement.

The film's soundtrack is simply amazing; again I am quite biased as I used to be an enthusiast of music and rock music of the 70s are the types that fill up my music library. Tracks like School's Out, Paranoid, Cherry Bomb, and Rock & Roll All Nite had me banging my head as they came on. These tracks also aid the audience to be in tune with the culture of youth during this particular time period. It was also nice of Linklater to give the film a softer sound with tracks like Free Ride, Low Ride, Summer Breeze, Love Hurts, and Sweet Emotion; it allows the audience to understand better that the 70s weren't all about the loud and hard rocking type of music, and beautiful soft melodies were also produced during that period.

The acting performances in this film aren't to the level of high praise but all of them are persistently great throughout. I am not going to into detail with the film's actors as this review would just end up becoming too long. I only want to bring up specific ones that really made an impression on me. Jason London as Randall was quite pleasing to watch, as he achieves in making his character likable, so whatever actions or decisions he makes throughout the film ends up seeming fun and cool, even if what he does isn't virtuous. London's character was able to adapt to the multiple cliques of high school, seemingly fitting in with almost every character there. Wiley Wiggins as Mitch Kramer and Christin Hinojosa were also great, truly portraying that innocence and strive for acceptance that are commonly found in youth. Joey Lauren Adams, who I loved in the 1999 Adam Sandler film, Big Daddy, was severely under used in this film. Though this was one of her first major roles and her character didn't have much to do in this film, but for the few minutes she does come on, she is radiant. Rory Cochrane who plays Ron Slater was a bit annoying whenever he comes on screen, overplaying the stoner type and constantly looks like he needs a nap rather than another joint. Adam Goldberg, who I mostly know as a guest star on season 2 of Friends, played his character quite well. I never thought the actor could play a role that is nerdy and approachable, as the roles I have mostly seen him in are tough guys who seem to dominate the people around them. Milla Jovovich was in this film, but her role was kept in silence almost throughout the film, it would have been nice if her character had more to do than to just look pretty in front of the camera, but maybe I think this way because we have already seen her at her peak where she can somewhat give a decent performance acting-wise. Ben Affleck as Fred O'Bannion was actually quite intimidating and proved to me that the actor suits antagonistic roles, which lately he doesn't seem to be taking. He was able to capture that figure that taunts and bullies during our years in high school. Matthew McConaughey as David Wooderson was also great in this film, and proved to me that the low point of his middle career was due to poor decision making rather than just an inability to perform well.

Dazed and Confused is a wonderful film that truly captures the essence of youth of the 1970s, which could please both sides of the audience, the ones who lived through the era and the ones who didn't. This film came close in joining the ranks of films within the Great Movies list, but I personally feel this film may need another watch from me before I can feel truly confident in making that decision.

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