Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused ★★★★★

Happy 4th of July my American Friends!!!

If I ever start referring to these as the best years of my life - remind me to kill myself.

Dazed and Confused managed to do a lot of things for me... In a lot of ways its plot is minimalistic and its scenes meandering. But in its simplistic and aimless wandering it effectively becomes probably the best "Summer" film, and all around best coming of age film ever made.

With its soon-to-be star studded cast featuring the likes of Jason London, Ben Affleck, Mathew McConaughey, Joey Lauren Adams and Milla Jovovich, and its alway blaring and always toe tappingly energetic soundtrack, the film becomes in essence a time machine not only back to May of 1976 in small town America, (in this case, Linklater's home town Texas) but also to a place in your mind that you may have locked in its own little golden room. Or its been heavily repressed....

Senior year of High School.

In Dazed and Confused, the characters like to act like they are stuck in a miserable rut but underneath the surface it can be implied that maybe they are the happiest they have ever been, and ever will be. I think they all KNOW that Summer of Senior Year in 1976 will be the only time in their lives where they are allowed to cruise from sunrise to sunset blaring rock and roll, smoking, drinking, hanging out, wandering the streets, getting into trouble, getting laid and soaking up youth but they don't want to admit it. The colorful mosaic of characters here are all kids that think any given situation other than the one they are in now will always be infinitely better. Its this kind of disillusionment to the current flow of events is what gives Dazed and Confused its heartwarming and relatable tinge. In one way or another we have all been there. It takes place in (almost) real time as school ends and the night begins. Structure and unity erodes away and the night begins its reign. Anarchy rules and the kids of small town suburban Austin Texas are the only people that exist. The film focuses on a group of middle schoolers on the verge of becoming Freshman and Juniors who are officially Seniors. These two groups of people are at very different places in their lives. One group is eager to transition into a grown up environment and the other group spends the night secretly longing for something more. Trying to find meaning and purpose in all the mindless drinking and smoking. Is there a meaning? Is there a point? Why can't it all just be about the beauty and fun of youth and ignorance?

I went to a high school much like the one in Dazed and Confused. There weren't people playing craps in the hall and it wasn't... well, 1976 but the hangout vibe was very similar. There weren't very specific cliques or groups but instead we all existed as a whole. Of course we all had our own individual circle of friends but not one group was better than the others and we were all really cool with each other and interacted just the same. As the night went on, groups changed, hangouts got bigger and smaller, we got in many different cars, and people came and went like we were all at one big party. Dazed and Confused does an amazing job of always evolving but retaining the same amazing pacing thought. Linklater's personal and humanistic directing captures all the necessary moments but the real star of the film here is the script. I can only imagine the script on paper was very minimalistic and most of these characters lines and conversations were kind of just made up as they went along. Its an epic collection of faces that look familiar even though we don't even know them. Dazed and Confused works a lot better if you factor in your own imagination, memories and experiences. Since its a very large cast, some characters aren't given a whole lot of lines but with some simple imagination they become fully fleshed out characters that you feel like you have known for years. You have the sweet geeky girl, the stoner with a heart of gold, the sassy cheerleader, the smartass nerds, the dude who flunked and takes his anger out on everyone else and that one guy who graduated a couple years ago but still likes to hang around. Some of the characters who have the littlest amount of dialogue are the ones where you can say, "I know you. I know your type. You remind me of so-and-so." Its like a reunion but with far less wrinkles and sob stories.

But still just as non-sober.

Linklater created with a film here that is eternally young and undeniably American through and through. Its a window into the life an American teenager and just a little taste of the sweet never ending flavor of Summer. Its a great small town film that pulls you in and gnaws at your memory like a familiar face. Its an achingly real film and utterly flawless in the rambunctious atmosphere Linklater creates. Its a lot of fun and very heartfelt. In some way its a film for the ages. Since its made for a specific group of people who are looking back at their high school years through nostalgic eyes, it will forever be a relevant film no matter how old you are. Even though kids now a days probably don't cruise late at night, hit the drive in burger place, stop in the secret hangout spot and converge at the kegger in a an empty field all in one night, they can still relate to the amount of mindless fun and youthful indulgences that the movie lets you soak up.

Happy 4th of July again. Pour one out for the kids of Lee High School, who will love forever on the screen, being extensions of our own memories.


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