It's the last day of school at a high school in a small town in Texas in 1976. The upperclassmen are hazing the incoming freshmen, and everyone is trying to get stoned, drunk, or laid, even the football players that signed a pledge not to. Written by
Jon Reeves <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"Dazed and Confused" details the last day of high school for the typical youths of America in 1976. Shot in and around Austin, Texas, the film failed at the box office in 1993-94, but has gone on to achieve a well-deserved cult status. I never even heard of the film until this year when I saw most of it on TV and promptly decided to pick it up the DVD when I got the chance.
To my mind, "Dazed and Confused" is one of the best high school comedy-dramas, along with 1982's "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." The difference between these two films is that "Fast Times" contains more goofy antics whereas "Dazed" is more of a docudrama with amusing flashes. In other words, although "Fast Times is generally realistic, excepting the over-the-top parts with Spicoli, "Dazed and Confused" is more like a slice from real life.
What makes "Dazed" work so well is that it gets the LOOK of the mid-to-late 70s just right, particularly the hair & clothing styles. Secondly, the actors pull off the material expertly. In fact, a large part of the film's success is the excellent casting choices. Both are no easy feat. Speaking of the actors, you get a few up-and-comers here: Matthew McConaughey, Milla Jovovich, Ben Affleck and one or two of lesser note (as far as future popularity goes).
All the standard school archetypes are here: the jock who parties on the side, the bullies, the hot sister and her little long-haired brother, the black dude, the hot (feminist) teacher, the streetfighter, the cool guys, the geekier crowd, the babes, the guy who graduated years ago but still hangs around, the mentors & mentees, etc.
And then you have the standard school experiences like parties at friend's houses, keg parties, fleeing bullies, dealing with coaches & teachers, flirting, the possibility of sex, hanging out, meaningless conversations, fights, smoking pot at school or in your friend's bedroom, etc.
Like "Fast Times," "Dazed and Confused" is a joy to watch -- whatever your age -- because it successfully takes you back to the high school years with all its joys & agonies.
Some don't like it because it's more of a slice-of-life film than a plot-driven, contrived story. The plot here is simple: It's the last day of school and the youths want to celebrate. If they can't party at their friend's house (because the dad catches wind of their plans) they'll have a party at the park or wherever, but they WILL party. The rest of the film involves their interactions within this context.
I've heard some complain that the film conveys a terrible message. What message? There is no message. The message is that school's out and it's time to celebrate! Besides, there are a few positive points that can be mined from the proceedings: the arrogant bully gets what's coming, make a stand and fight when you have to (even if you get beat up), ultra-tight pants must be put on with pliers & the help of a friend, be true to yourself, etc. But -- really -- this isn't a movie to look for deep messages, its simple purpose is to take you back to the school years -- in this case, 1976 -- and all the fun & painful experiences thereof.
No review of "Dazed and Confused" would be complete without noting the excellent soundtrack. You get some great rock/metal of the 70s like "Sweet Emotion," "School's Out," "Stranglehold," "Do You Feel Like We Do," "Love Hurts," "Paranoid," "Rock & Roll Hootchie Coo," "Rock & Roll All Nite," "Slow Ride," "Cherry Bomb," "Tuesday's Gone" and many more.
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