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Customer Review

80 of 94 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It WILL hit close to home, February 1, 2004
This review is from: Dazed and Confused (DVD)
"Dazed and Confused" represents one of the better entries in the film genre fans affectionately refer to as the stoner picture. After viewing this movie, I started thinking about this much maligned cinematic rubric. How many films, I wondered, fall within this category? Well, there are the Cheech and Chong movies that emerged in the 1970s, a series of films that really deserve their own special niche. What else? "The Stoned Age" came out one year after "Dazed and Confused" arrived on the scene. There are probably many more that I could not recall, but the mother of all stoner films has to be the amazing "Over the Edge," a movie notable for showcasing Matt Dillon in his first film roll, but also because of its gritty '70s feel and its wonderful fusion of youthful alienation with suburban sprawl. "Over the Edge," sadly unavailable on DVD as of this date, should serve as the standard by which viewers should measure all other stoner films. In that respect, "Dazed and Confused," while suffering a few problems, does a nice job of keeping the tradition alive.
Set in a small Texas town in the 1970s, "Dazed and Confused" follows the various misadventures of a group of high school students on the last day of school, covering a period of mere hours from the end of the school day to the obligatory beer bash held that evening. The cast of characters here is huge, ranging from a small band of junior high students about to become freshman to high school juniors about to become seniors. There's Randall "Pink" Floyd (Jason London), the high school football star who is having some doubts about signing a team pledge to refrain from drugs and alcohol during his senior year. Several of his buddies, including Fred O'Bannion (Ben Affleck) and the team coach, give him grief about his hesitancy to give in to this blatant attempt at control. In the meantime, the gang of jocks and their female counterparts take great joy in engaging in the time-honored ritual of hazing the incoming freshman class. This activity involves chasing the hapless kiddies around town in automobiles in order to administer a rather vicious beating with a stout wooden paddle. One of these new freshmen, Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins) attempts to avoid the inevitable until some seniors catch him after one of his baseball games. Floating on the periphery of these scenes is a trio of eggheads (played by Adam Goldberg, Anthony Rapp, and Marissa Ribisi) and an aging stoner, David Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey), who cannot let go of his high school years.
The scenes in "Dazed and Confused" unfold in a chaotic manner, perhaps in an effort to mirror the randomness of American youth during the 1970s. A planned party at the house of a kid whose parents are going on vacation comes to naught when a delivery truck attempts to deliver a keg as the shocked adults look on. With this party effectively put on ice, the search is on for a new place to toss back a few cold ones. Most of the kids spend a lot of time driving around town, always on the lookout for some action. After receiving his beating, Mitch Kramer discovers a newfound friendship with Randall Floyd, who invites the diminutive frosh to accompany him on an excursion to the local hangout. Meanwhile, the three brainiacs cruise around town throwing out the most hilarious observations about their future and the state of the country (my favorite line equates Gerald Ford's football injuries with the state of the economy). The kegger contains the things those who went to these atrocities in high school would expect: someone gets in a fight, new relationships form and dissolve, and the stoner archetype goes off on a rant about drugs. The movie ends with no concrete answers about where these kids will go or what the future holds for them.
The movie is notable not for its party hard theme, although that certainly plays a big role here, but for its introspective mood. Director Richard Linklater punches up the film with plenty of humor, such as Affleck's over the top role as the school jerk, but he also shows many of these characters worrying and wondering about the future and what it holds for them. Some of these scenes will break your heart. For example, David Wooderson tells his high school buddies about how the real world is a drag because of its rules and how he just does what he wants no matter what the cost. Everyone knew this guy, and also saw him fail in life. Randall Floyd muses about his high school career, stating that "if these are the best years of my life, remind me to kill myself." The last scene of the film, with that open road stretching into the distance--and into the uncertain future, for that matter--really sums up the what this movie is about.
I think the viewer who will understand this movie the best will be the person who went to high school and has been out of that place for a period of years. That way you can appreciate the humorousness of the various characters while understanding the implications of their actions. The people who were not caught up in high school because they understood that four years is only a small part of the grand sweep of life were the ones who generally succeeded after leaving the hallowed halls. "Dazed and Confused" makes you realize this fact. Although the film is a little too fractured, resulting in several undeveloped characters, it really is an honest look at a painful time in our lives. I highly recommend it, but prepare yourself for nostalgia pangs and a heavy dose of even more painful '70's atmosphere along the way.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 7, 2007, 9:56:19 PM PDT
This is a good review, but I think it's strange to call this a "stoner" film. It's a newer and more realistic "American Graffiti", not a high school ""Half Baked." The characters smoke weed because high schoolers smoke weed, not because Linklater wants to make a movie that is more enjoyable when you are high (who sees "Cheech and Chong" flicks sober?).

Posted on Jun 15, 2010, 4:20:57 PM PDT
No one can deny that there is A LOT of weed smoked in this movie, such that it could hardly be categorically excluded from the "stoner" genre (if one wishes to posit one).
I think calling keg parties "atrocities" is dramatically more dubious...

Posted on Jun 28, 2010, 8:10:01 AM PDT
~Morbius~ says:
It's difficult for me to take any comment seriously, when the commentator says things like: "Set in a small Texas town in the 1970s, "Dazed and Confused" follows the various misadventures of a group of high school students on the last day of school..." Uhhhh... excuse me, but your "small Texas town" happens to the the State Capitol of Texas... hardly 'small' (been there).

Considering something of that magnitude (obviously skipping geography-class, in favor of a "smoked-lunch")... I'd just leave it to saying things like "how you liked it"... and/or "what was special" or "What I didn't like". Otherwise, it makes you sound like one of the characters... for real. BTW- What state is 'UTAH' in?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 18, 2011, 5:12:36 PM PDT
Wuchak says:
He should have said, "Set in a small Texas CITY..." Regardless, he probably simply meant small in relation to Texas' big cities: Dallas, Ft. Worth, San Antonio & Houstan. In any case, it's not an important enough issue to reject his entire review.

Posted on Nov 21, 2011, 6:22:35 AM PST
J. Williams says:
Decent enough review but seems somewhat negatively biased throughout, not sure this viewer found in this movie the enjoyment expressed by others...though certain statements may hint that this reflects the a subpar high school experience - and the desire to look past it to the evidently newly apparent "grand sweep of life". Really though, the high school years are some of the most developmentally important in anyone's life, and never again will we act so on impulse or live so easily in the moment. This movie captures this sentiment perfectly, and no other that I know of does it so easily and realistically with such a wide array of believable characters and intertwined cliques.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2012, 12:44:16 PM PST
J. Williams- I totally agree with your comment here, especially if you were in high school in the '70s as I. I can't see along with the reviewer that this was a "painful time"-quite the contrary for me. It is a time that cannot be obtained again until you push 'play' with this movie. Thanks for expressing this so well, Sheryl

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2013, 12:49:18 PM PST
I think Austin was around 200,000 in the early 70s compared to Dallas's 650,000 or so. As you say, however, the use of the word "town" was unfortunate.
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Review Details

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Reviewer

Jeffrey Leach
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Location: Omaha, NE USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 845,801