Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater. 1993)

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The last moments of youthful freedom, becoming a man or a woman,  determining what paths you want to walk down in your future.

The coming of age story offers an indefinable opportunity for poetry and deeply contemplative moments. Now it may be solely because I’m of that age where a boy turns into man (or boy in to larger boy), but I adore coming of age stories. The Catcher in The Rye, Huckleberry Finn, The 400 Blows and Rebel without a cause. These are all classic stories in capturing the state of confusion and dizziness brought upon a person in the process of growing up. It’s messy, fraught with internal conflict and buzzing with judgements, anger and sheer energy.

Coming of age stories are not easy to get right though as a filmmaker. It is highly difficult to create that energy and that questioning nature of youth without succumbing to indulging in long, rambling philosophical monologues or bold visual metaphors about life itself.

Richard Linklater’s Dazed and confused has no difficulty with this hurdle though. A pure, beautiful snapshot of a specific time and a specific youth mentality, it’s disappointing that it’s not as highly regarded in the world of teen drama as say, The Breakfast Club. Although, that’s maybe because Dazed and Confused is not the same breed of teen drama. Linklater doesn’t aim to create an obvious moral point on identity or individualism as The Breakfast Club does. Instead, on the last day of school, his characters are just ordinary people trying to get through the summer either stoned or drunk – or indeed both. They’re glimpses of boys and girls enjoying freedom and youth. And while there is a point made about the danger of not letting go of teenhood in the character of Matthew McConaughey’s creepy Wooderson, the beauty of the film is its simplicity and the range of subjects it captures while retaining this simplicity. There’s first loves, anger towards authority and uncertainty of what lies ahead. It’s truly a film every teen needs to see before they become an adult – whatever the hell that entails.

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