Dazed And Confused (1993), or Insert Marijuana Joke Here

3 11 2009

This is my boss’s favorite movie. He always regales me with stories of this movie that I barely remember seeing a long time ago. I feel bad when I tell him I don’t remember it; like letting a hand raised for a high five go un-slapped, it just shouldn’t be done. And so I resolved myself to see this scant memory of a movie again, going so far as to look up deleted scenes and commentary afterwards. Dazed and Confused is, coming from the perspective of someone who has practically just seen it for the first time, an ambitious and irresistible coming-of-age flick that sprays awesome from the exhaust fume of its custom van.

There’s a lot to like here, with enough story to cover 2 movies easily. It’s set during one single day in a shitty Texas town during the mid 70s, and it focuses on the different social circles and agendas of a bunch of high schoolers. It’s the last day of school, and everyone has different plans. The soon-to-be senior boys and girls all have plans to haze the incoming freshmen, as is tradition. Randall “Pink” Floyd has plans to have a good time with his friends, which might just jeopardize his goal of playing football. Mitch Kramer, a freshman, tries in vain to avoid the hazing but ends up making friends with Pink, who gives him the opportunity to hang out with him and all his newly-senior friends to go cruising for fun and hijincks. They go smoke pot and drink with him for the first time, and each of Pink’s friends blossoms as a character, getting their own interesting story. As the day approaches night, things get wilder as the kids go out en masse to go find fulfillment and enjoyment in the hot summer darkness. Mitch his friend Carl have to contend with Fred O’Bannion, a pissed-off senior held back a year looking to haze them even further to sate his sadistic nature and dull the pain of staying in high school. Pink also has problems, being at odds with the coach and his football team who want him to sign a ridiculous pledge promising he won’t do anything to jeopardize a potentially Championship-winning season, not to mention the fact that they don’t want him hanging around with his best friends because of their bad influence (i.e. stoner tendencies).

But mostly it’s just an excuse to have wacky 70s stuff happen and crank some tasty tunes. Dazed and Confused is that perfect light and breezy view. It’s fun, vibrant, youthful, and full of energy that comes from nowhere but goes straight for the funny bone. Richard Linklater creates a feeling, a time, and a place that is so warm and inviting. Only his third feature, Linklater expounds on the ideas he brought forth in Slacker, perfecting it and expanding it to its logical groovy conclusion. It’s the bubbly tinge of youth’s fire in American Graffiti without the depressing epilogue. It came out at just the right time and place to take advantage of a feeling in the air that screamed for a real good time at the movies.

I won’t go too in-depth on the loose-knit story for you, seeing as the dialog is the major draw and not high school drama, but I do want to talk about the cast for a moment, because while a lot of these guys went onto later success, and a seemingly equal amount never amounted to anything, these are still good characters all the way around that you’ll care about and love . Jason London plays Pink, and he is a good-looking guy who channels almost a James Dean iconic status. He never went on to turn that many heads, but he makes sure you get your money’s worth on this one. Wiley Wiggins, famous geek and technical genius, plays Mitch, the king of the uncool abused freshmen. He’s a real laid back actor whose credibility comes from his nonchalance. Sometimes it gets a little real, though, and he still pulls through with aplomb; God, when he takes a few smacks from the older kids during the hazing, I feel like interjecting, like he was my little brother. Also, never went on to do anything else, so OOPS!. A young and still-sexy Milla Jovovich plays tomboyish but beautiful Michelle Burroughs. She is different than I’ve ever seen her before, and I mean there is almost NO recollection of her being so effervescent. She’s just unusually happy for her hard, sexy Eastern-bloc looks, and her demeanor quickly becomes a matter of HUH for me? It’s good, it’s just jarring. And, of course, the role that made McConaughey famous, Davis, is here. I somehow get the feeling that McConaughey didn’t have to try to hard to be this guy, who is an older man (possibly 30s?) that still goes to high school events to pick up girls (!!!). He really cleans house with that character, and I enjoyed his rollin’ ramblin’ style that has become so iconic in recent years. Every now and then, something will come out of McConaughey that doesn’t fuck my face up with its lameness, so I’m glad Linklater used him in JUST the right amount and just the right tone for that movie. Good job, DUDE!

I could go on; there’s a lot to tell about this little independent Texas feature. But I figure I can do an essay later, seeing as I’d REALLY like to go on about it right about now but have neither the research nor the time. I will say this; Dazed and Confused is a great movie about youth and long meaningful teenage conversations with a young, vibrant cast full of potential that needs maybe a little more focus, but overall has the immense appeal of a powerhouse comedy. It’s a good one to watch on Friday night, with the shades pulled back and your cologne pouring out of your pores as you try vigorously to get into the party spirit. I like it a lot, and i think you will too. I give Dazed and Confused 8 1/2 rollin’ ramblin’ men out of 10. Check it out!

Tomorrow, folks, we dive into Equilibrium! Until then!