In a similar vein to his first feature Slacker, Linklater’s 1993 teenage biopic Dazed & Confused flits plotlessly across a plethora of teenagers on the last day of school, watching their behaviour and listening to their conversations. Carelessly drifting through one afternoon and night; the film has an aimlessness about itself that is echoed in the behaviour of its teenage protagonists. A bushy-haired Ben Affleck stars as an obnoxious bully, and Matthew McConaughey features as a slimy southerner, but the real star here is Wiley Wiggins, playing a freshman who – after the standard paddling initiation procedure – is taken under the wings of the graduates, looking up to them with bright and hopeful eyes throughout.
A sincere snapshot of young life in seventies America, Dazed & Confused is both refreshing and liberating in its refusal to simply exploit teenagers as props for cringe-worthy sex-disasters like many other films about adolescents so often do. The film portrays an accurately wide variety of teen personalities – some dumb, some intelligent, some angry, some laidback – but has time for them all. Declining to poke fun at puberty, yet refusing to become bogged down in nostalgia either, Dazed & Confused simply exists as an intimate observation of a memorable mark on the timeline of a teen – the end of the academic year.
For some it’s the last day of high school forever, for others it is just beginning. But Linklater’s film doesn’t yearn for or regret these years, it simply relives them as they were; days of existing between childhood and adulthood; unsure of the future, unsure of themselves, unsure of how to behave – simply dazed and confused.
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