The adventures of high school and junior high students on the last day of school in May 1976.The adventures of high school and junior high students on the last day of school in May 1976.The adventures of high school and junior high students on the last day of school in May 1976.
Taking place on the last day of school in a small suburban town, "Dazed and Confused" is a brilliant ensemble piece rivaling anything done by Robert Altman that covers the broadest spectrum of teenagers imaginable. We see the nerds, the potheads, the jocks, and the cheerleaders, as well as the incoming freshmen, as they celebrate the beginning of summer. Some celebrate less than others, of course; freshman hazing is a big part of the movie, both male and female. The dialogue is fresh and unexpected; lines about George Washington's proclivity for marijuana, why you just gotta love high school girls ("I get older, they stay the same age", as McConaughey's character says), and the herd mentality when a fight breaks out demonstrate how all-over-the-map the dialogue can be, and it's always affecting and usually quite funny.
Of course, it's the acting and the characters that really steal the movie, and it really is amazing how many people in this movie went on to bigger things. As I said before, Affleck was the most surprising, but Mcconaughey had the most memorable role as an older dude who can't seem to let go of his youth, a slick slimeball who chases after under-age jail bait. And he has never been funnier or better than he was in this. Eventually, his character will wake up and the kids aren't going to want to hang out with him and the girls aren't going to want to sleep with him anymore, and he's going to have a rude awakening. But for the time being, he's all macho cool swagger, and Mcconaughey pulled off the part perfectly. Parker Posey is also excellent, playing a senior bitch (but only because she's "supposed" to be) unleashing a humiliating hazing on the incoming freshman girls.
You have to give props to the writing. It's not a long movie, but it covers so much ground that it feels big. At one point, a character says that the 70s obviously suck. That may have been, but it's never looked cooler than it did in "Dazed and Confused". And the soundtrack must be mentioned too. The 70s was a decade full of musical highs and lows, and thankfully the soundtrack highlights the highs while ignoring the lows, and we have songs by Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Dr. John, War, and other seminal 70s rock figures (curiously missing: "Dazed and Confused" by Led Zeppelin, but that's forgivable). Brilliant; there's not a single clunker, and it adds to the free, easygoing atmosphere of the movie. "Dazed and Confused" is quite possibly the best "teen movie" ever made, and, from the point of view of someone who grew up in the 80s anyway, the best movie about the 70s ever made.
- May 7, 2005