Dazed And Confused was no wistful remembrance of high school

Dazed And Confused was no wistful remembrance of high school

Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Instead of pegging our picks to a new release, we’re running through the best movies of 1993.

Dazed And Confused (1993)

On the surface, Richard Linklater’s day-in-the-life comedy Dazed And Confused seems nostalgic for late adolescence, when young people are still technically kids, but old enough to begin to experience some of the freedoms of adulthood. Set over the course of the afternoon and night of the last day of school in 1976, the film follows a few groups of friends as the joy of that first taste of summer gives way to conflict and a more nebulous existential concern. For all the scenes of kids drinking, getting high, and partying, Dazed And Confused is hardly a nostalgic look back at the good ol’ days—despite what the trailer below seems to promise. As Randall “Pink” Floyd (Jason London) says toward the end of the film, “All I’m saying is that if I ever start referring to these as the best years of my life, remind me to kill myself.”

Those words practically came from Linklater’s mouth. As he said in an interview around the film’s release: 

“Really, any person with a brain should hate high school. It’s that simple. I mean, doesn’t that make sense? How can you like being completely oppressed by an atmosphere of authority and submission, with mind-indoctrination abounding? There’s nothing good about high school. If you have a brain, you’re hoping just to survive and get out—and then you can, like, quest for real freedom.” 

That attitude heavily informs Dazed And Confused, particularly in the case of Floyd, the star quarterback and stoner who’s facing pressure from his coaches and friends to sign a clean-living pledge in order to play in the fall. And adults aren’t the only ones to blame: Some incoming seniors, such as flunky Fred O’Bannion—played by an enjoyably unhinged Ben Affleck—and the cruel and popular Darla Marks (Parker Posey), take to the streets to brutally haze incoming freshman. 

Linklater, who wrote the script, set the film in his adopted hometown of Austin (he grew up in the Houston area), but made it even more personal by placing the story in 1976. He turned 16 that year, putting him right in the middle of the kids who are his protagonists, and the film perfectly captures the joys and humiliations of high-school life. Strong performances from a stacked cast help: Affleck, Posey, Matthew McConaughey, Adam Goldberg, Anthony Rapp, Rory Cochane. Now, nearly 40 years removed from the era the film depicts, Dazed And Confused seems simultaneously foreign and familiar—the fashions and accessories of teenage life have changed, but the feelings of alienation and anxiety remain the same.

Availability: Dazed And Confused is available on DVD, which can be obtained through Netflix, and to rent or purchase through the major digital services.