Besides an occasional good performance and a lot of charming ones, Dazed and Confused only has so much going for it. Director Linklater is far more concerned with the script than he is with the direction. He doesn’t give the actors much to do and then doesn’t seem to want to spend much time with any of them. And, based on some of the performances, Dazed and Confused appears to have some improv. If so, it’s a mistake. If not, well, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
It’s the last day of school for a bunch of high school juniors (played by twenty-somethings). Their afternoon activity? Hazing a bunch of eighth graders (played by high school juniors). The movie opens with a likable Jason London (which, yes, did surprise me) and Joey Lauren Adams. She has nothing to do. Linklater just has the female cast around to show them in shorty-shorts for the most part. He may have had more for them to do at one point, but it got cut. Especially once the film becomes more male-centric in the second half.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
So London’s sort of the lead. He’s the star quarterback who really wants to hang out with the stoners. The cliques in Dazed and Confused are real loose, which makes everyone just a little bit more sympathetic. Combined with the feel good, “matched to the scene” soundtrack, you want to like everyone in Dazed and Confused. Except Ben Affleck.
Amid a bunch of pot jokes, usually with Rory Cochrane (he’s likable, but not good), Linklater introduces the rather large cast–over twenty kids he wants the audience to remember–and eventually gets to Wiley Wiggins. Wiggins is one of the eighth graders. He’s Linklater. Dazed and Confused is about Wiggins falling in man-love with London, who is already drawn to Wiggins’s older sister (a good Michelle Burke in a crap role), and eventually getting accepted. He doesn’t just get accepted. He gets an older girlfriend.
None of these actors actually have roles to play. They’re line delivery mechanisms. Even Matthew McConaughey’s early twenties pervert who pursues only high school girls.
I wanted Dazed and Confused to be better. The opening actually implies it can get somewhere–but Linklater doesn’t have a cast of actors who happen to be memorable, he has a memorable cast because it means he doesn’t have to write as hard. And he doesn’t have to direct much at all. Except to lionize Wiggins (and later London).
Anthony Rapp is pretty good. Marissa Ribisi is okay. Christin Hinojosa is supposed to be the female analogue to Wiggins but Linklater sets her off on an adventure with the nerds who are really cool instead of Wiggins, which is on the adventure with the cool kids who are actually even cooler. Plus she has like five lines.
Affleck loses his accent all the time but he’s at least amusing throughout. Adam Goldberg stars amusing, ends tiresome. Ditto Parker Posey, who Linklater gives the worst role (after Joey Lauren Adams). Solid performance from Sasha Jenson; problematic but solid. And Shawn Andrews seems like he’d be good if he were in it more. Wiggins is all right.
Lee Daniel’s photography is good, Sandra Adair’s editing is all right. Great look to the film. John Frick’s production design is outstanding.
Dazed and Confused has enough material for four movies but not enough for one, not with Linklater’s direction. Had it been someone else, it might have come off better.
Written and directed by Richard Linklater; director of photography, Lee Daniel; edited by Sandra Adair; production designer, John Frick; produced by James Jacks, Sean Daniel and Linklater; released by Universal Pictures.
Starring Jason London (Pink), Wiley Wiggins (Mitch), Sasha Jenson (Don), Michelle Burke (Jodi), Rory Cochrane (Slater), Cole Hauser (Benny), Jason O. Smith (Melvin), Adam Goldberg (Mike), Anthony Rapp (Tony), Marissa Ribisi (Cynthia), Christin Hinojosa (Sabrina), Matthew McConaughey (Wooderson), Shawn Andrews (Pickford), Milla Jovovich (Michelle), Parker Posey (Darla), Joey Lauren Adams (Simone), Christine Harnos (Kaye), Catherine Avril Morris (Julie), Deena Martin (Shavonne), Nicky Katt (Clint) and Ben Affleck (O’Bannion).