In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_wqqs6be8whul7npjbh0h9v7wido

The Purge: Election Year

This pseudo-political horror-thriller is an ugly provocation, one that feels especially crass in light of national tragedies like the recent shooting in Orlando.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives

Reviews

Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused Movie Review
  |  

The years between 13 and 18 are among the most agonizing in a lifetime, yet we remember them with a nostalgia that blocks out much of the pain. This is a truth well understood by "Dazed and Confused," Richard Linklater's film about the last day of school and the long night that follows it.



The film is art crossed with anthropology. It tells the painful underside of "American Graffiti." In a small town, classes let out for the summer, and upperclassmen go looking for next year's new high school students, so they can paddle them - an initiation inspired, I guess, by high school fraternities.

We follow a large number of teenagers, boys and girls, popular and not, "good" and "troubled," as they drive aimlessly around town, drink beer, hang out, trade adolescent life-truths, lust, experiment with sex, fight, and in general, try to invest their passage into adulthood with a significance it does not seem to have.

"If I ever say these were the best years of my life," one of the kids says, "remind me to kill myself." Linklater does not impose a plot on his material. "Dazed and Confused" (the title comes from a song) is not about whether the hero gets the girl, or the nerd loses his virginity, or the bully gets beaten up. It doesn't end in a tragic car crash, although it does end in some quiet moments of truth, which are not pressed too hard.

The film's real inspiration, I think, is to depict some high school kids from the 1970s with such unblinking attention that we will realize how romanticized most movie teenagers are. A lot of these kids are asking, with Peggy Lee, "Is that all there is?"

Linklater's style is to introduce some characters, linger with them for a while, and then move on to different characters, eventually circling back so that all the stories get told simultaneously. His previous film, "Slacker" (1991), applied a more extreme version of this style to a large group of characters in Austin, Texas. The film would follow one character, then veer off to follow another, so that we got glimpses of many lives.

Here, in addition to limiting his characters and following through on their stories, he quietly introduces an observation. It is always the case in any group of males -- students, fraternity brothers, military men, businessmen -- that the ones most zealous about male-bonding rituals, especially those involving drinking and quasisexual "initiations," are the most troubled. They secretly feel like outsiders. As their targets, they choose misfits who are too dumb or too smart, who are different in any way, who do not reflect the mediocrity of the crowd.

The kids who enforce this system usually turn out to be losers, and indeed part of their desperation -- part of the reason they cling to status in teenage society -- is that they already feel themselves losing. The most pathetic character in "Dazed and Confused" is a graduate from a few years back, in his '20s now, who still hangs out with the kids because he senses that the status he had at 17 was his personal high point. This is a good film, but it would not cheer people up much at a high school reunion.



Popular Blog Posts

The Real Reason Men of a Certain Age Hate the "Ghostbusters" Remake

The new "Ghostbusters" film brings a battle between distorted nostalgia and the power of a child's imagination.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

The "Shawshank" Greatness, Part II

FFC Gerardo Valero returns to "The Shawshank Redemption" to investigate how it remains the #1 film on IMDb.

Donnie Darko in his mind's eye (One little boy, one little man)

"It was as though this plan had been with him all his life, pondered through the seasons, now in his fifteenth year c...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus