I am pretty certain Richard Linklater lives to create film worlds I want to be a part of.
Before Sunrise/Sunset is the unattainable and unlikely chance love in Europe, Slacker is home to Austin’s free-thinkers and spirited young adults and SubUrbia is how I wish my transitional teenage years went.
Dazed and Confused is the decade I want to live in.
Traditionally, generations have had a tough time coming to grips with the idea that things weren’t always better in decades ago. I understand this, respect this and generally believe this. That said, I don’t care. I not so secretly wish I grew up inside Linklater’s 1976 suburban Austin town.
I want the happiness, I want the struggles, I want the pleasure and I want the pain. Linklater’s film, which is a deep thinker’s coming-of-age comedy, captures all this and more over the course of one single day and night: the last day of the school year.
It wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last time Linklater would capture the essence of life throughout the course of one single day or night. This sense of time has been brought forth in a number of his films and whether it focuses on a new couple’s relationship, an entire town’s experience or a few people who contain themselves to a single hotel room, Linklater explores time in a way most filmmakers don’t. It’s within these constraints of time that Linklater gets the absolute most out of his characters.
But Dazed and Confused is a different beast. It’s huge, all-compassing and passionate. It revels in the yesteryear through subtle and not so subtle choices. Built on a massive cast, Linklater drives what looks like stoner’s coming-of-age comedy to another level. He applies the thinker’s perspective, pushing his methods of anthropology, psychology and philosophy through the surface of the film through certain characters. In fact, even the obtrusive, annoying and dumb characters, the kids in high school we didn’t like, provide a spectacular sort of discussion that is shockingly guided to our attention.
This is a film that lives, breathes, eats, vomits, smokes and drinks the 1970’s. The style and music selection are a time capsule of the decade. The characters are typical of its cliche. The one celebrated night, which is not so much a story but a memorable experience for all involved, are memories 50-somethings might be able to recite to us today.
What Linklater does, more importantly, is take all this and make it resonate through many decades. And so whether you were growing up in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s or whenever, you can find something to relate to. Linklater explores enough, and does it with a passion for living and a passion for wondering, that it really doesn’t matter that you spent your teenage years in the new millennium or before it.
The success of Dazed and Confused should be personal for each viewer. It shouldn’t simply be something you’re told, you shouldn’t be expected to like this film because of Linklater’s sharp writing, his celebrated and fun characters or the world he created. You should, however, expect to find yourself immersed by those qualities.
It’s in that diving feeling, where you fall into the depths of Linklater’s universe, that you find yourself grabbed by the minds of this film. I haven’t for a moment mentioned a single character or actor. It doesn’t matter. It isn’t what’s important. They all co-exist in this beautiful, loving and nostalgic journey through their young lives. They are pieced together and glued together. They simply. And I think that is Linklater’s greatest accomplishment. He transcended the routine and created a world that has more life and moving parts than he could cram into his film.
Take the slow ride…