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Dazed And Confused
cast: Wiley Wiggins, Jason London, Rory Cochrane, and Matthew McConaughey

writer and director: Richard Linklater

103 minutes (R) 1993
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Universal NTSC DVD Region 1 rental / retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Noell Wolfgram Evans
I was scared of high school. From what I knew about high school, I was sure I'd be stuffed into a locker as soon as I got there. This fear was based on who knows how many movies I had seen where high school was about kids getting stuffed into lockers while the geeky virgin, the hero jock, the selfish cheerleader with an actual heart of gold and the happy fat guy all went through some sort of adventure together. Granted I knew these were all just 'movies', but I had become convinced that there were some facts or truth in them. It wasn't until after I had hid out in the bathroom during lunch for the fourth week that I realised that while these movies may have had true themes (boy loves girl he can't have, people suffer through detention, the 'big game' brings the school together) the actual stories were completely off from the day to day life of a high schooler.

A life that was finally shown in a true light when the 'high school' movie changed in 1993 with the release of Dazed And Confused. Written and directed by Richard Linklater, Dazed And Confused perfectly portrays the angst, excitement, empathy, apathy, yearning, invincibility, fear, disillusionment, fun and wonder of the future that the ages of 15 to 18 provide. Although the movie was made in the 1990s, it's about the 1970s and yet you don't have to have been a part of either decade to really move in its rhythm. That's because its themes are universal and time transcending. To portray these, Mr Linklater has given the audience some loose stereotypes to graft onto, but (and this is what helps propel this film above mediocrity) he uses those stereotypes as structure only, filling them with some true personality and depth. The characters here seem less like the friends you wish you had from other movies and more like the friends you do have.

The story is portrays the graduation rites and rituals of a Texas high school. It's not just about though paddling or prodding or being stoned or playing mailbox baseball (all some of the ways that the characters pass their time), it's about what to do next. It's about those conversations you can have when everything is in front of you and yet you really want no part of any of it.

There are some people who have their fill of high school and don't see a need to sit through a movie about it, especially one that shows it in such a realistic way. At least that's how I felt. But there's something about the film that sucks you in, the characters have such a smart sense about them that you want to be there with them. For the same reason that we watch hours of reality television, this is entertainment that you can really transfer into or live vicariously through. It's one of those movies that when it's over, you find yourself disappointed because you want more.

Dazed And Confused is not a laugh a minute, it is funny but there are also some serious moments and some scenes that leave you feeling a little uncomfortable. It's all of the emotion that makes up high school, and that makes up life, really. If you're going into school, this is a pretty true look at what's ahead, if you're there, it's a way to bond with others doing the same thing and if you're coming out, it sums everything up.

The movie is fun too because it gives you a chance to check out a number of stars before they got big. You'll see Matthew McConaughy as a graduate who can't let go, Ben Affleck as the senior you always suspected he might be and Joey Lauren Adams and Parker Posey among others.

Dazed And Confused is a great movie not because of any new technical innovations or because it makes some superior contribution to the history of film, it's a great movie because it tells its story so perfectly. At one point in the film, one of the characters is asked by his coach to sign some pledge forms or risk not making the team. He's stuck with one of the central questions of the movie, and of life, responsibilities or freedom. The oldest member of the group offers this advice: "Man, it's the same bullshit they tried to pull in my day. If it ain't that piece of paper, there's some other choice they're gonna try and make for you. You gotta do what Randall Pink Floyd wants to do man. Let me tell you this, the older you do get the more rules they're gonna try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep livin' man, L-I-V-I-N."

And livin' is what high school, and at its core, Dazed And Confused, is all about.
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