Review: Dazed And Confused (1993)

A movie I watched a lot as a kid, and a movie I love returning to as a adult!

Written By: Richard Linklater
Directed By: Richard Linklater

Dazed And Confused is a time capsule, a refreshingly honest time capsule. The kids we meet in Richard Linklater’s film don’t know what lies ahead and the film very smartly doesn’t add in any ironic moments that speak to what is coming. These kids are getting by in High School the best way they know how and that’s to have what they consider fun. A lot of what they do isn’t fun at all, it’s incredibly mean spirited and downright nasty. But, I know from having been told by relatives in my family that this is what High School was like for them in the 1970s. The events that happen in the one day time frame of Dazed And Confused are obviously exaggerated for dramatic and comedic effect. But they are culled from real things that kids just like those in Dazed And Confused would do over the course of their High School lives.

There is humor to be found in the actions of these jocks, layabouts, misanthropes, stoners, sluts, and creepers. That’s not always the case, when Ben Affleck’s sadistically crude Fred O’Bannion is shown in slow motion paddling an incoming freshman the tone is definitely not comedy. That scene is conveying sadism, bullying, and hint of repressed homosexuality in the pure joy he finds from roughing up an underage behind so much. However, there is plenty of comedy to be found in Dazed And Confused, from the slick creepiness of Matthew McConaughey’s David Wooderson to the awkward facial expressions of Wiley Wiggins’ Mitch Kramer. The comedy found in Dazed And Confused isn’t pushed hard, much like the decade the film takes place in the comedy in Dazed And Confused is laid back and easy going.

Unlike Mr. Linklater’s other trademark work, Slacker or Before Sunrise for instance, Dazed And Confused isn’t introspective or retrospective. The kids in Dazed And Confused very rarely muse on their circumstances or wax philosophically about the world around them. A couple of characters do, but there are always some people like that in every social strata. No, the majority of the kids in Dazed And Confused are stuck in time. They are the 1970s without idealization and they are High School kids without the after the fact moralizing or revisionist history. They walk around and say very little that doesn’t have to do with getting high, having sex, beating some ass, or avoiding getting their asses beaten.

The music in Dazed And Confused is of special note. I love every song that was used in Dazed And Confused, but at first I felt the film was oppressed by the music. Just about every second of Dazed And Confused is full of 1970s rock music, as soon as one scene ends another familiar tune kicks in for the following scene. The deeper I traversed into Dazed And Confused the more I realized that the music wasn’t oppressive at all, rather it is the beating heart of the film. The film pulses along because of the music and the music informs every moment in which it is in use. It certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s such great music, but even if it weren’t it is still music that is integral to the breakneck pace of the film.

Dazed And Confused was a seminal film in my early film development. It was the first film I watched that so perfectly captured a period in time in the best possible way. There are tiny moments of drama, comedy, pathos, and real High School life to be found in Dazed And Confused. It’s also one hell of a ride, a ride that I am always glad to get back on every time. I’m not sure what the critical consensus is on Dazed And Confused, but I know that it’s a great movie that wonderfully evokes a specific time and place. I always have a good time watching Dazed And Confused and I don’t see that ever changing, no matter how much I may change.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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