Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused ★★★★½

Criterion Task 2019: 6/100
Criterion Spine: 336

It's insane how identifiable Dazed and Confused is, as if it reached back to the late 90s and pulled my own high school experiences onto the screen for all to see. Except this is set in 1976, and my tame, goodie two-shoes high school life was drug/alcohol/party-avoidant and freshman hazing wasn't really a thing at my high school. So frankly that strips out just about every identifiable piece of Dazed and Confused and its possible relevancy to my life, and I'm not sure why I find this film identifiable at all.

Which I think means it's the characters. It's not so much that they feel like me, or mirror my experiences, but that they feel like actual people. Not that there isn't some movie magic gloss here--this isn't High School: Sex, Drugs, And Hazing, a Documentary--it's just a level of authenticity in their... maturity? I think that's what it is. These are characters that feel the proper maturity level. That's pretty impressive. Few fictional portrayals of the high school experience can avoid the trap of trying to make characters more adult than they really are. Minds behind high school narratives are either trying to convey an upstanding moral message, relive their glory years, or simply understand that stories are most successful when characters are likeable--and let's be honest, most real high schoolers are fucking terrible. So not only did director Richard Linklater strip away the adultiness of the high school narrative (and as a result, most of the characters are bratty and awful), he does so while keeping their endearing qualities intact.

Legitimacy through immaturity hardly seems like an exciting calling card with which to recommend a film, but that's as good as I can come up with. It's the biggest thing that separates Dazed and Confused from the other druggy/party-based high school narratives.

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