Dazed And Confused

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Director: Richard Linklater.
Screenplay: Richard Linklater.
Starring: Jason London, Wiley Wiggins, Matthew McConaughey, Rory Cochrane, Sasha Jenson, Cole Hauser, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Shawn Andrews, Adam Goldberg, Anthony Rapp, Marissa Ribisi, Joey Lauren Adams, Parker Posey, Deena Martin, Michelle Burke, Mark Vandermeulen, Esteban Powell, Jeremy Fox, Christin Hinojosa, Jason O. Smith, Terry Mross, David Blackwell, Nicky Katt, Renee Zellweger.

Man, it’s the same bullshit they tried to pull in my day. If it ain’t that piece of paper, there’s some other choice they’re gonna try and make for you. You gotta do what Randall Pink Floyd wants to do, man. Let me tell you this, the older you do get the more rules they’re gonna try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep livin’, man…
L-I-V-I-N
“.

Richard Linklater is one of those directors that consistently delivers fresh and original material yet somehow remains a filmmaker with a lower profile. His projects certainly gain the respect they deserve but they never really go over and above that in terms of awards. He’s always been innovative and has adopted some daring approaches to filmmaking with the likes of his free-form indie debut “Slacker“, the expansive “Before Sunrise” trilogy, the philosophical “Waking Life” and it’s rotoscope animated companion piece “A Scanner Darkly“. Even his forthcoming “Boyhood” – a 12 year project following a boy’s journey from 5 to 18 years old – is a feat that few, if any, directors have tackled. However, one of his most poignant and entertaining escapades happens to be the mosaic “Dazed and Confused“. It was largely ignored and a commercial failure upon it’s release but has since gained a strong cult status. And for very good reason.

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The year is 1976 and it’s the last day of high school in a small Texan suburbia. Everyone’s up for a party and in search of booze and drugs but first, the incoming freshmen must go through some embarrassing initiation rituals organised by the senior students, who take great pleasure in putting the youngsters in their places.

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Much like his aforementioned and experimental approach to “Slacker“, Linklater doesn’t have a lot going on narratively. He’s fully aware of this, however, and acts only as a mere vessel in allowing his actors the space to breathe and roam free in their roles. That being said, there’s still a complete focus here and the result is far more solid and entertaining than his debut. It’s not often I’ll praise a film for it’s lack of narrative but in the case of “Dazed and Confused” it’s the characterisation that leads the way and each and every one of the actors really shine; Wiley Wiggins is our young guide throughout this turbulent time for teenagers as he falls into a friendship with the senior students on his last day of freshman year and Linklater astutely captures a whole myriad of teenage angst and the carefree emotions of a disaffected youth.

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Let’s not forget that this was only Linklater’s second film and it wasn’t just him that was finding his way, but also the impressive cast that he put together. Largely unknown at the time of the film’s release, many of the actors would go on to become part of the Hollywood firmament. We get well judged performances from all sorts of high school types; from Jason London and his jock pals Sasha Jenson and Cole Hauser to Rory Cochrane’s stoner, Adam Goldberg’s intellectual nerd and Ben Affleck – playing one of his most unlikeable characters – as the school bully. The most memorable from the entirely great ensemble, though, is a small but dynamic and scene stealing role for Matthew McConaughey as the older guy who refuses to grow up and move on.

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Outwith the performances, Linklater also has a keen eye for capturing the 70’s setting (in all it’s flair and hair) and taps perfectly into the tone of the era. It’s a nostalgic look back at daunting initiations, rebellion and the agonising awkwardness of adolescence and it’s told with an affectionate wit and charm. I may not have went to an American high school or got involved in tanning some freshman ass with a pre-made baton but the energy and love for this poignant time really shines through and still operates at a level that will appeal to everyone who has any memory at all of their school experiences or peer pressure.

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Sharing much in common with George Lucas’ “American Graffiti” or Greg Mottola’s more contemporary “Superbad“, this is a funny and insightful coming-of-age contemplation. Linklater has delivered some wonderful film’s over the years and I’m sure he’ll continue to do so but, so far, this is his best film to date. It’s absolutely superb.

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Mark Walker

Trivia: Matthew McConaughey states that the line “Alright, alright, alright!” in the scene at the Top Notch drive-in was his first line ever spoken on camera in the first scene of his entire film career. The infectious line was hence repeated during production by the entire crew and has been one of McConaughey’s trademark slogans, even using it during his Academy Award acceptance speech for best actor in “Dallas Buyers Club”. He says that he ad-libbed the line from Jim Morrison, who exclaimed it during a performance on the album “The Doors Live”.

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40 Responses to “Dazed And Confused”

  1. I haven’t seen this one yet. But you, and many others, have enough good things to say about it that I’ll change that someday. Hopefully I like it as much as you do when I finally do.

    Like

    • You really should get around to it Josh. Okay, it’s not Citizen Kane or anything your getting here but in terms of astute observation and entertainment it’s second to none, man. I just can’t get enough of this little gem!

      Like

  2. I’ve seen this probably 20 times an it never gets old. I think what it gets so right is the Friday and Saturday night culture of the 70’s (which bled over into my decade the 80’s). The driving around with friends, circling the drive-in, hanging at the one main hangout. These things were such a part of small town youth culture. The conversations, the disenchantment. The movie captures it all. Oh, and it has one of the best compiled soundtracks in music history! Linklater actually used most of his budget getting the music rights!

    Just rewatched this yet again last weekend. Like I said, it never gets old.

    Like

    • I’m the same, bro. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it and it still has staying power. Always will. This a timeless little classic that Linklater had compiled here. I wasn’t all that taken with his debut, Slacker, but I did respect what he was trying to achieve with it. In Dazed and Confused, he nails it by keeping the characters consistently real and amusing. It’s just an absolute beauty.

      We’ve spoken already about how we can’t give out 5 stars lightly but I honestly couldn’t see myself giving this any less. It’s as entertaining a film as your likely to ever get and few films hold up with as viewings as this does.

      Like

  3. Good review Mark. This movie’s a total classic if you like stoners that talk a lot. I mean that in a good way.

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    • Cheers Dan. With The Big Lebowski being my favourite film, it would seem I have a penchant for stoners that talk a lot 😉 Totally agree on the classic status, though. It has stood the test of time and will continue to do so.

      Like

  4. I’ve never seen this because of the hype that came with it, but now that I am an MM fan – I think I’ll give it a shot : )

    Octopitititties!!

    Like

    • MM is fantastic in this. What a character he plays. Be aware, though, that he’s not in it much but he still makes quite an impact. So much fun, this film.

      By the way, I just finished episode 4 of True Detective last night. 4 more to go and it’s fucking fantastic!!

      Octopitititties and Boat Drinks!!

      Like

  5. What a classic film and what a great write-up. This film speaks to so many of us at a certain point in our lives and it gave us McConaughey, for which we should be eternally grateful.

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    • Classic indeed, Mark, and thanks for your kindness. I actually found it quite difficult to write about as you forget how much a narrative plays a part when you’re reviewing a film. I always wanted to tackle it, though, and spread the word on how much I love it. Like you say, it gave us McConaughey and it’s brilliant that he chooses to use his lines from this film to this very day.

      Like

  6. Popcorn Nights Says:

    Well alright, alright, alright! This is one of my favourite films and I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen it. It never gets boring! Memorable characters, great script, superbly-judged soundtrack and some very, very funny moments. I guess no film is faultless but it’s hard to find much wrong with Dazed and Confused.

    Like

    • Popcorn Nights Says:

      Ps you totally do it justice with this review. Good read!

      Like

    • Nice! Like your opening line there, Stu. It is such a great film isn’t it? Somehow when I was rating it, it didn’t look like a film that you’d think would receive top marks but, as you mention, it’s hard to find fault with it and that’s why I just had to max it out. I love the movie and It’ll always hold special place in my favourites too.

      Like

  7. Alright alright alright

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  8. Great review, Mark! Really curious about this one.

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  9. I appreciated the way you linked this with the similarly developed films American Graffiti and Superbad. Graffiti condensed the dawning of the sixties into one night, and it did it with ten years perspective. Dazed and Confused had a 17 year differential that might make it a little more hazed and confused but it still feels authentic. The Texas setting is of course a unique culture so many of the references and events feel almost as foreign to me as they would to someone from the other side of the globe. Superbad captures the ought s in all their glory, but you can see how kids in all three generations were focused on partying and finding someone to love. Nice job.

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    • Thanks Richard. You’re spot on there. All three are great films, particularly this and Graffiti but all of them shed an observant light on adolescence. I defy anyone not to find something from them all that have mirrored our own experiences. That’s what makes them so much fun. My particular favourite of this sub-genre always lies at the feet of Linklater’s, though. Love this movie.

      Like

  10. Nice review. This is one of my favorite comedies. A pure classic that never gets old.

    Like

  11. This review has put me in the mood for a rewatch of this movie.

    Like

  12. Would it surprise you Mark to hear that I have never heard of this film? Sounds like I have been sorely missing out.

    Like

    • It would surprise, Chris. It would surprise me even more if you choose to ignore it further. It’s an absolute belter. If you’ve seen Superbad then you get the idea. Only this is less crude and far more effectively done.

      Like

  13. Man this is such a good film. Not seen it for ages though. I want to go and reivisit it now that McConnaughey is such a massive star. Great write up man.

    Like

    • Cheers Chris! It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like this film. I caught it a couple of weeks ago on tv and it was as good as ever. McConuaghey is fantastic, as you know, and despite the abundance of quality he’s delivering just now, this still remains my favourite from him.

      Like

  14. Always such thoughtful reviews Mark, this is an excellent write-up of a classic. I will very awkwardly admit, though, that this deserves a rewatch from me because my memory of it has faded more than it should have. But I do recall McConaughey and Affleck from this. That’s crazy trivia about his “Alright alright alright” line! What a gem.

    Like

    • Cheers Tom. Very kind of you to say so, man. I actually struggled a bit with the review as there wasn’t much of a narrative to shed light on. Still, I love this movie. A cult classic for good reason and McConaughey still to this day references his character.

      Like

  15. I will admit this, I cannot recall having seen this one… apparently that MUST be rectified!

    Like

  16. Wonderful movie. It really captures the time period well, and the characters are so perfectly rounded. Linklater manages to give an ensemble cast equal footing without it ever feeling crowded. Great soundtrack too. One of my faves.

    Like

    • It certainly is a great film, Dan. Like you say, Linklater does a fabulous job of managing so many characters. Each of them with their own appeal. I just love this movie, man.

      Like

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