|Dazed and Confused
1993 - R - 103 Mins.
|Director: Richard Linklater
|Producer: Sean Daniel, James Jacks and Richard Linklater
|Written By: Richard Linklater
|Starring: Jason London, Joey Lauren Adams, Milla Jovovich, Shawn Andrews, Rory Cochrane
|Review by: Bill King
Everyone's experience with high school is different. For many, they're the glory years. For others, they're the years of torture. A film that deals effectively with these concepts almost always turns out to be a winner. "Dazed and Confused" is among the best high school films ever made, and one of the best films of 1993. Ten years after its release, it's as good as ever. Richard Linklater's third film is a triumph of humor, acting, screenwriting and pacing. It breaks many of the rules associated with high school films, develops its own style and runs with it. It is a brilliant observation over a 24-hour period during which many characters interact and simply be themselves. That Linklater was able to make this material interesting is a tremendous feet, because there's almost no plot to speak of.
Linklater's method is to cut between the film's many characters as they prepare for the Summer after the last day of school. They are all coming off their junior year. Randall "Pink" Floyd (Jason London) is the main character. He and his friends prepare for the annual initiation of the oncoming freshman class. Large wooden paddles are the preferred way of punishment. After school, Pink and the gang taunt the middle school kids, the most visible of which is Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins), because his older sister Jodi (Michelle Burke) is a senior-to-be who will initiate the female freshmen.
While many seniors participate in the hazing rituals, others prefer to stand back and watch. Mike (Adam Goldberg) and Tony (Anthony Rapp) are much nicer to the freshmen, and point out that the whole community knows what's going on but does nothing because this type of thing has been happening for a long time. We learn of a party at Kevin Pickford's (Shawn Andrews) house. His parents find out about it, and stay home instead of going on vacation. There are several funny scenes during which drunken students show up for the party and are greeted by the father.
With no party to go to, the characters drive around, meet up at various gathering spots and discuss whatever is on their minds. Mike, Tony and Cynthia (Marissa Ribisi) engage in light conversation, but others like Slater (Rory Cochrane) are satisfied to just smoke a joint. New characters appear here and there. We meet a drop-out in his twenties (played by Matthew McConaughey) who hangs around high school kids because he's desperately hanging on to his youth. The camera leaps from one group of students to another, hearing them talk, or eavesdropping on their actions, which vary from pranks to drinking and smoking.
I haven't described much action, because there isn't much to describe. Instead, we get a very talky film, but I liked that. There are no subplots involving football games, proms or getting the girl at the end. Even better is the fact that there are many characters to meet, yet during the 103-minute running time, we never once get lost.
"Dazed and Confused" juggles the large cast effectively. The script, by Linklater, has a good ear for dialogue and there are combinations of truth and humor to be found everywhere. My favorite moment comes when Slater talks about George Washington and that he was "on to something" when he grew hemp. The film also served as the launching pad for many careers. Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey, Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams make early appearances. Linklater and Wiley Wiggins would team up again in 2001's amazing "Waking Life."
Richard Linklater's "Dazed and Confused" was the start of a great career. I admired the effort behind his previous film "Slacker" (1991), though I couldn't completely enjoy it. I've liked every film he has made since, though. "Before Sunrise," "subUrbia," "The Newton Boys" and "Waking Life" all have their own unique qualities that make them work. However, it is this film that truly defines his greatest gift, which is that of a thoughtful observer.