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Remember the Daze
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This comedy looks through the eyes of a handful of teenagers who make their way through the last day of high school in the last year of the past millennium and provides a glimpse into the teenage wasteland of 1999 suburbia. The film follows several students as they relish the advent of summer vacation and struggle with drugs, sex and the unpredictability of the future before them.
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This is one of those 24-hour important transitional day teen movies, which are produced every few years and key in on a day that marks the passing from one stage of life to another. In this case it is 1999 high school graduation party night (in North Carolina) as the seniors prepare to move on to life after high school. Think "Can't Hardly Wait" (1998), "Dazed and Confused" (1993), and "American Graffiti" (1973). Throw in some elements and cast members from "Sleepover" (2004) along with the lyrical qualities of "Empire Records" (1995) and maybe even a little of "Sixteen Candles" (1984).
The only thing really unique about "Remember the Daze" is that Jess Manafort (the writer and director) is a relatively young woman. So the point-of-view is more female oriented; and the parts of the female characters are better written and much more believable that those of the males. Intuitively you would think that this would give the film a box office advantage over its predecessors. The many hot babes and some comedy, drug use, and misbehaving should attract a teen boy target audience and the more cerebral and sensitive dialogue should connect with girls of almost any demographic.
Unfortunately the wheels mostly fall off and the film fails to make the sentimental connection Manafort was hoping to achieve. It probably has something to do with too many stories being told, more than in the other films mentioned, and passing some vague tipping point where there are so many that the audience struggles to tap into any one particular character for point-of-view and strong identification purposes.
Also a problem was too much emphasis on the two weakest stories in the bunch; Heard's struggle to break up with her terminally depressed boyfriend (together they sap the energy from every scene in which they appear) and Patterson's struggle to break up with her terminally depressing boyfriend (who is physically and emotionally interchangeable with the assorted members of his moronic but staggeringly unfunny homeboy pack). Mostly you just end up feeling embarrassed for the poor folks tasked with playing such poorly written parts.
The film has some entertaining moments. Meester and Katrina Begin make the most of their limited screen time, and manage to inject a lot of badly needed comic relief. They represent a fusion of the Ron Howard - Richard Dreyfuss - Cindy Williams characters, struggling to sort out an upcoming geographical separation.
Stella Maeve ("Lightly" - I love that character name) and John Robinson ("Bailey) have a sweet and believable romance that is nicely sold by the way the two actors gently tease their roles. Each year in high school I recall romances where an incoming freshman girl pulled an older but less mature upperclassman out of his shell, but for some reason the dynamic has been neglected in films.
Even with the missteps already noted, Patterson is excellent in what turns out to be the biggest part in the production (after editing but probably not in the original script as she gets no billing on the main promotional material). This is essentially Jennifer Love Hewitt"s "Can't Hardly Wait" character, this time mostly played for laughs but not aggressively enough written so that the absurdist elements are not as effective as they could have been.
A distanced and largely silent guy (Charles Chen) with a still camera bookends the film; the quintessential class historian who participated in nothing but is destined to one day serve as the class' collective memory. They go out on an elaborate crane shot that goes up and into a second-story window to pan across a montage of his just developed photos. He also serves the Wolfman Jack role, with his constant presence a lyrical commentary and a way to bring unity to the disparate story elements.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.