Happy Fourth of July, everyone! For today's post I'll be taking on an American classic, Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused.
When an acquaintance of mine suggested I watch this movie, it turns out I was one of two people on Earth who had never seen the movie before, so I didn't know what to expect. Though it's often touted as "a stoner movie" or a "coming of age movie", I was surprised that Dazed and Confused was more nuanced and complex than it makes itself appear to be, which I suppose is part of its beauty. So rather than try to disentangle my entangled feelings for it, I will list what I liked and didn't like, and then you, fair reader, can decide if it's something you would let your teenagers watch.
What I Liked
There are characters who question things.
The main character, Randall "Pink" Floyd, refuses to sign a contract for his football team saying he will abstain from drugs and alcohol. When one of his teammates asks him why he won't just sign the paper, he replies, "Why are we playing football?" There were a couple of scenes where Pink's coach was giving Pink a lecture about making something of his life and to stop hanging out with losers. While it was clear Pink wanted his life to be of his own making, he wasn't sure that the regimented world of football was the desirable alternative to hanging out with his pothead friends. Another character, Mike, played by the irrepresible Adam Goldberg constantly rails against the system throughout the movie. In the beginning, he questions the need for freshman hazing at the school, something which all the other characters in the movie have accepted as normal.
The characters and situations are complex.
Pink is one of my favorite characters. While he is made out to be the all-around good guy, he is constantly drunk or stoned throughout the movie, which quite frankly, made me feel sorry for him. In another scene, when the seniors are engaged in a car chase with a bunch of freshman so they could beat them with wooden paddles they made themselves, I couldn't help but be troubled. There was something disturbing about watching the boys, but especially the black character yipping for joy in the pick-up truck waiting to beat on his prey. This reminded me of other scenes from other movies, where white men in pick-up trucks chased black men, ready to lynch them. Whether this was Director Richard Linklater's intention, I'm not sure, but that's what came to mind. Even though this movie is set in 1970s Texas in a high school, it still brought up interesting and troubling questions of power--who's got it and why--without coming off as too preachy.
The rules are, there are no rules.
I didn't grow up in the 70s, but there's something about this movie that evokes the nostalgia in me for more carefree times. I, too, have memories of riding around in a car with my friends aimlessly on a summer night (sans alcohol--my parents would have killed me!!!!) As a mother now, I see how restrictive our environment has become, sometimes for the good, and sometimes for the bad. Kids nowadays have very regimented schedules and lots of academic work. It makes me wonder if my daughter will have the chance to be aimless and free for a while (sans the illegal substances, of course.)
Who doesn't love some good-old retro fashion! The polyester in this movie was to die for!
What I Didn't Like
Most of the kids in this movie were drunk and stoned most of the time.
I read some reviews of this movie, where people have said, "Duh! The name of this movie is Dazed and Confused. What did you expect?" While it's true, I wasn't expecting a deep, philosophical movie, watching people (especially kids) drunk and stoned for most of the movie made me depressed.
Overall, I am surprised at how much I liked this movie. Despite the "stoner movie" facade, the film does ask some intriguing questions about why we do the things we do in our lives, who has the power, and why do we give it to them? If I had a teenager in my life, I would definitely let him/her watch it, but not without a long chat afterwards.
Special thanks to Mr. Reyes for bringing this film to my attention.