Dazed and Confused

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

DAZED AND CONFUSED

8/10

US 1993, dir. Richard Linklater, 102m

Dazed and Confused covers 24 hours in the lives of a group of kids in a Texas town. It’s 1976, and it’s the last day of school – the day juniors become seniors, and seniors are cast out into the world. We follow a bewilderingly huge number of the kids through the afternoon, evening, night and following morning as they party, listen to music, smoke dope, fight, kiss, argue, cruise around in their cars. It’s like a less-nocturnal American Graffiti, updated to the post-Vietnam era, with an Altmanesque interest in everybody and everything that’s going on. It’s an upbeat film, one that seems weirldy aimless on first viewing – but second time around the aimlessness is what makes Dazed and Confused such a satisfyingly different film. There’s no plot as such – there are plots and subplots, but they’re extremely loose and underplayed, and some of them aren’t even resolved, at least not in the way other high-school movies may have led you to expect. Instead, this is a firmly character-based picture, and it works mainly because the young actors are so well-chosen, such interesting types, who make each of the kids believable, rounded, though not necessarily likeable individuals. It’s no accident that so many of them (Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Matthew McConaughey, Renee Zellweger, Joey Lauren Adams, Milla Jovovich) went on to become much bigger names, though Wiley Wiggins, Anthony Rapp, and (especially) Sasha Jenson Nicky Katt are at least as impressive. The soundtrack is equally well-chosen and unobtrusive, resisting, like the film as a whole, the easy clichs of retro-70s kitsch. Linklater is a sly film-maker, by no means in-your-face but with a definite directorial plan – a plan which pays enormous dividends to viewers who take the trouble to key into his unique film’s unique, nimble rhythms.

by Neil Young
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