Dazed and Confused - CoverThe Criterion Collection’ have recently released the high school classic, ‘Dazed and Confused’. It was directed by Richard Linklater; it stars Jason London, Wiley Wiggins, Sasha Jenson, Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Rory Cochrane, Milla Jovovich, and Joey Lauren Adams; and it’s 103-minutes long. Plus, as an extra added bonus, the Blu-ray edition comes with audio commentary provided by Linklater, a fifty-minute documentary, deleted scenes, audition tapes, footage from the ten-year anniversary celebration, excerpts from behind-the-scenes, as well as the original theatrical trailer. Please enjoy.

Dazed and Confused [The Criterion Collection]

When school comes to a close and summer finally begins, what do you think the boys and girls of 'Lee High' do for the remainder of their days? I mean, do some of them hang out with O'Bannion (Ben Affleck) and beat up the newly baptized freshmen? Or do they drive around town and pose with Simone (Joey Lauren Adams) and her fine, fine friends, in order to kick back, relax, and see what’s currently going on?

You know, like that party, for instance, that party being held downtown! No. Not Pickford’s party (Shawn Andrews), because his shindig had to be canceled when his parents caught him ordering a keg of beer! But rather, Wooderson’s party (Matthew McConaughey), which is going to be situated outside in the forest and full of smooching, kicking, and dancing! 

So go on, which activity do you think they prefer? And please, try to be honest, otherwise, what next transpires may go crack, kiss, honk, when a crowd of kids goes hunting for a life. As some students suddenly experience bliss - others have a tendency to take the piss - a snake in the grass likes to hiss-hiss-hiss - and at the end of the day, please remember, your final days at school can either be heaven or something to miss.

Even though ‘Dazed and Confused’ doesn’t have a solid storyline or a highly developed character arc, in the same breath, I’d say it was a pretty enjoyable film, more or less, simply because it was a nostalgic look back at the seventies rather than a straightforward adventure. Well, in many ways, it’s an ensemble piece, featuring a number of adolescent archetypes and a freewheeling script that’s one part Americana, one part episodic, and one part very childish by design. 

Dazed and Confused - Jason London and Matthew McConaughey
Not that this is a bad thing, mind you! If anything, I found it rather refreshing and fairly fun. After all, it’s not every day we get to see some of the customs adopted by the American kids during the 1970s. This includes things like, 'juvenile initiation ceremonies', where a small team of gender-specific seniors would torture a small team of gender-specific juniors in order to fulfill some sort of customary ritual. Or alternatively, 'cruising', where a group of teenagers would get together in gangs and drive around town to hang out. As a matter of fact, seeing nerds with nerds, jocks with jocks, and girls with girls, dated this movie and kind of made it what it actually is! That being, a sprawling high school melodrama where camaraderie took precedence over plot.

Well, with all due respect, as much as I loved the style and the tone of this film -- very seventies -- the one thing I wasn't too fond of was its incoherent plot. Or to be more specific about it, how the two main characters weren't able to reinforce the numerous plot-threads all the way through. Now one of these characters was a jock called Pink (played by Jason London), whereas the other was a junior called Mitch (played by Wiley Wiggins), and in each case, they were meant to be the glue that stuck this multilayered storyline together, instead of being the crowbar that accidentally prized it apart. You see, in essence, Jason’s 'six-minute storyline' focused on a very specific quandary -- if he should pledge a strict allegiance to his football team -- which, in all fairness, didn’t really have enough of an impact to linger within the bigger picture. Whereas Wiley, on the other hand, can’t act, can’t stop rubbing his nose, and can’t seem to set the screen on fire, despite his best efforts.

Dazed and Confused - Sasha Jenson, Michelle Burke and Christine Harnos

I mean, let’s face it; who would you rather see? A limp looking lad who follows Jason London around like a stray puppy? Or would you prefer seeing someone like Simone? As played by the sweet and smiley Joey Lauren Adams! Or how about the gorgeous Goth chick played by Milla Jovovich, Michelle? Who I highly suspect was cut out of the film simply by the way she (along with her partner, Pickford, as played by Shawn Andrews) kept on being referenced from time to time, even though their presence was minimal at best! Either way, with some benefit of hindsight, it does seem fairly obvious that something went wrong during the production, and this must have caused the story to lose focus and kind of go astray. 

Dazed and Confused - Poster
Anyway, that’s enough of that for the time being, because now I think we should sit back, relax, and check out the following filmic facts: (1) ‘Universal’ first screened this flick at the ‘Seattle International Film Festival’ on the exact same day the American writer Bernard Evslin died. It was on the 4th of June, 1993. (2) Loosely translated, this project was entitled ‘Last Wild Night with the Clique’ in Denmark; ‘Rebellious Generation’ in France; and ‘Recklessly Tumbled’ in Finland. (3) On the 7th of October, 2004, three men from Huntsville, Texas, filed a lawsuit against ‘Universal Studios’ because they didn’t get their permission to use their likeness for the making of this film. Each man was a former high school classmate of Richard Linklater -- who wrote and directed it -- and each man lost their court case due to the statute of limitations having expired. (4) The majority of this movie was shot on location throughout the American state of Texas. This includes Bedichek Middle School, Top Notch Restaurant, Toney Burger Center, Great Oaks Parkway, Pioneer Place, Coventry Lane, Lamar Boulevard, and Burnet Road [each located in Austin, Texas], along with certain parts of Georgetown and Seguin. (5) One of the taglines used to promote this picture, states: ‘See It With A Bud’. (6) According to Linklater, one-sixth of the film's budget was spent on acquiring the rights to the numerous seventies pop hits for the soundtrack. (7) Despite this being his first film, Matthew McConaughey took some time off because his father tragically passed away and he had to arrange and attend the funeral. Coincidentally, this was also the first film for Wiley Wiggins, Marissa Ribisi, and Shawn Andrews. (8) In 1997, 'Entertainment Weekly' selected this film to be one of the "50 Greatest Independent Films" of all time. Then nine years later, in 2006, they ranked it once again, but this time third ‘Best High School Movie’ ever made.

Dazed and Confused - Jason London, Sasha Jenson, and Rory Cochrane

In closing my review of 'Dazed and Confused', I would just like to elaborate on what I enjoyed the most about this movie. Namely, how I could connect, or at the very least, associate with certain members of the cast, even though the story is set in a different time, a different place, and a different country. 

Dazed and Confused - Sasha Jenson, Michelle Burke, Joey Lauren Adams, and Christine Harnos
Well, as I said before, a large majority of the characters are well-defined two-dimensional archetypes, and because of this, it’s pretty easy to pick out familiar personality traits and then assign them to someone you might want to know. Rory Cochrane, for instance, plays Slater (the loveable pot-head) in such a charming and down-to-earth manner, that I could easily see myself hanging out with him (and probably have). Whereas Ben Affleck, on the other hand, plays O'Bannion (the school bully) in such a tenacious fashion, no, I wouldn’t want to hang out with him, but I would want to applaud him for his memorable performance.

Come to think of it, I could also applaud many of the other personalities that populate the plot, including Wooderson, the high school dropout played by Matthew McConaughey; Tony, the intellectual bookworm played by Anthony Rapp; Don, the sex-starved jock played by Sasha Jenson; and Mike, the frustrated nerd played by Adam Goldberg. Saying so while likewise acknowledging some of the great supporting cast as well, like Kaye the feminist (Christine Harnos), Darla the bitch (Parker Posey), Cynthia the brainy broad (Marissa Ribisi), and Melvin the token Nubian (Jason O. Smith).

Now, to coincide with this diverse cast of characters, this film also presents us with a diverse range of songs that were pretty decent to listen to. Not only because they added an acoustic connection to the era this story was trying to represent -- The Seventies -- but on top of that, they were also very memorable due to their rebellious (‘School's Out’ by Alice Cooper),  upbeat (‘Why Can't We Be Friends’ by War), and groovy (‘Sweet Emotion’ by Aerosmith) nature. But then again, that was the seventies for ya'! As it was the type of decade that had its numerous ups and downs! Although, on second thoughts, doesn't every decade? Yes, of course they do, and that’s another point I think this film was trying to make. Don’t let your era define you, but rather, let you define your era. So, with all that said, on the whole, I would just like to say that this was a pretty decent film, and I would definitely recommend it if you enjoy similar high school movies, such as ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ and 'Animal House'. 


DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993) DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993) Reviewed by David Andrews on June 10, 2019 Rating: 5

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