Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Dazed and Confused Review

"All I'm saying is that if I ever start referring to these as the best years of my life - remind me to kill myself."

The most fascinating part of Linklater's Dazed and Confused is that even the most seemingly ridiculous, over-the-top characters in the film are completely believable. The first time I watched the movie I wasn't even in high school yet, so while what I was seeing was entertaining, I had no personal experiences that would have enabled me to relate. I recall finding the behavior of the stoners to be silly, as if they were putting on an act rather than actually depicting pot heads, except here's the thing - I not only ended up knowing those guys in real life, I became one. 

Driving around, smoking grass and trying (and failing) to meet girls. Adolescence. It's something I can wax nostalgic over and yet be thrilled I have left it in the rear view mirror. On the one hand I miss it all, the freedom from personal responsibility and the pressures of both adulthood and fatherhood, although I don't really know if "miss" is the right word. I don't necessarily long for what did happen, but rather I regret what could have been. The days, weeks, months wasted crying over being picked on before I finally realized none of it fucking mattered at all. The obsession over looking the part and playing the role of "cool" only to discover at the very end of it all that the coolest thing you can do is just be yourself. The numerous moments a cute girl would smile at me but my insecurities would destroy that fleeting glimpse of confidence and would stop me from saying a word.

The best years of my life? Horseshit. Not a chance. Not when I can put the last decade of my life under a microscope and see the vows I made to the love of my life closely and recognize that I have kept every one of them and will continue to until my final breath. The birth of a gorgeous tiny girl and watching her become a person before my very eyes. Safe to say these have been the best years, and I hope the ones to come are even better. In the far too short yet somehow vastly long journey of life, the high school experience is a blip on the radar and a mostly forgettable one at that, and yet it all mattered so much in the now of then. 

Despite all of this, Linklater's film reminds me that those years not being the best doesn't mean they weren't beautiful in their own way. Dazed and Confused is an expertly crafted picture that perfectly encapsulates an era of time as well as a formative period of living with every frame oozing out of the 70's despite being released in 1993 and every performance dripping with teenage authenticity. Richard Linklater delivered the ultimate coming-of-age masterpiece by devoting 12 years of his life to Boyhood, and yet he presents a tale of transitioning towards the next phase over the course of only one day here and he does it both with eloquence and also a desire to deliver cinema that is fun. 

One thing I noticed this time around that I never have before is a specific music cue when they are entering the Emporium and playing over everything is Bob Dylan's "Hurricane". Not that I never noticed the song, I am a huge Dylan fan and hearing it is no surprise, but this time I couldn't help but wonder if the choice was merely a chance to use music as a nod to the time period or if it was also making a statement about the ignorance of adolescence. Here we have a room of almost entirely white teenagers whose concerns are report cards and football and doing drugs and getting laid, and yet the music that fills the aural background of this moment is a socially and racially charged track regarding the wrongful murder conviction of a man whose life has been destroyed by real world injustice and consequences. This isn't to say that Linklater is being critical of their ignorance, but rather that he is encouraging current and future generations of likewise aged people to ignore the noise and live in the moment. There will always be a time to hear the lyrics and be plagued by their truths, but on a night when nothing else matters but looking cool while walking into the Emporium, it should be nothing more than just another song.

Dazed and Confused is silly, yet it isn't at all. It feels ridiculously real watching sequences of drugs, lust, and meaningless destruction and they all take me back to a moment in time when being young and dumb was more than ideal, it was essential. When Mitch (Wiley Wiggins) throws a bowling ball out the car window and it crashes through the windshield of another parked vehicle, the adult in me starts thinking about the ramifications of such behavior, the unfair randomness of the person who has to fix it and just how fucking angry I would be if it happened to me, but there was a time in life in which I would react like Mitch does. After a moment of stunned silence, they begin laughing and applaud the young man for the chaos he created. Mitch just smiles. 

Linklater's story is about the young and the dumb and the laughter and the smiles. Dazed and Confused reminds me why it was so important back then to worry about the consequences later.


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