“Idealism is guilty middle-class bullshit”
Having already delivered Slacker in 1991 and Dazed and Confused in 1993, Richard Linklater’s third film, SubUrbia, somewhat confirmed him as a voice for the disillusioned youth and their struggling transition into adulthood. This is a recurrent theme among his films and has lasted from his debut, to his most recent 2014 film Boyhood. A lot of director’s are often drawn to a particular niche and it would seem that this is where Linklater comfortably resides. Jeff (Giovanni Ribisi), Tim (Nicky Katt) and Buff (Steve Zahn) are three aimless friends that do nothing more than hang around their all-night convenience store, drinking, eating pizza and bitching about life in general. On one particular evening, they await the arrival of old high-school friend Pony (Joyce Bartok) who is now a successful musician. As the night progresses, though, tension, jealousy and resentment begin to grow.Taking a break from writing duties and focusing on the work of playwright (and sometime actor) Eric Bogosian, Linkater finds a project that is not unlike his own material. However, there’s a slightly angrier and darker piece of work here that’s a little out of Linklater’s usual comfort zone. Like a lot of his films there’s very little in terms of plot as it focuses on a bunch of friends hanging out and discussing their lives, the choices they’ve made and where their futures might lie. Again, like many Linklater films, it doesn’t sound too appealing on the surface but he has a real knack for capturing natural dialogue and performances and that’s where the film really finds it’s feet. The always reliable Giovanni Ribisi waxes philosophical in true Linklater fashion while we have Steve Zahn lightening the mood in a film that’s predominantly concerned with pessimistic conversation.As always, Linklater has a good eye and feel for small town, Texan mentality and he films with a colourful vibrancy whereby many scenes and exchanges of dialogue could be cut and pasted directly into Dazed and Confused and they’d appear seamless. The sticking point of the whole affair, however, is the running time; it’s just shy of the two hour mark and you do get the feeling that the characters overstay their welcome, particularly as the tone of the material gets darker and more depressing. That being said, this is still another enjoyable outing from Linklater.A sharp and observant character piece that fits comfortably into Linklater’s cannon of films and once again showcases his ability to capture the disenchanted, cynical youth on the periphery of society. It’s one that fans of his will not be disappointed in.Mark Walker
Trivia: Steve Zahn and Samia Shoaib are the two cast members who were featured in the original run of Eric Bogosian’s play as well as the movie.