The buzzed kids in Dazed in Confused did end up going to college.
Metaphorically, in the mind of terrific writer and director Richard Linklater, it turns out.
And so a quick 23 years after that breakthrough coming-of-age film that drew up the extremely realistic final May 1976 high school days of a group of Texas friends, all booze and pot and making out and awkwardness-cloaked-as-confidence included — and, oh, yeah, a kick-butt soundtrack, too — my dear wife Karen and I settled in with a sparse late Friday night crowd in Regal Cinemas’ mid-size theater at Syracuse mega shopping, dining and entertainment complex Destiny USA.
On screen, it’s late August 1980, and writer-director Linklater has placed college freshman Jake pulling up to his Texas college in his trusty old Olds, cassette deck blasting. He’s going to be a pitcher on the school’s successful baseball team, living in one of the two houses the unnamed college has set aside for the players.
The 1 hour, 57 minutes mostly unwind in the three days that lead up to Jake’s first class as he meets the guys, they drink and smoke pot and size each other up. And all try to bed down the co-eds.
Blake Jenner, known from the late part of the run of TV hit Glee, is terrific as wide-eyed Jake, all-in for the fun and games but smart enough to watch and listen and reserve a piece of the action for his own needs.
The team is full of eccentrics who are terrific players, we hear often and see in the one extended scene, a “volunteer” players-only practice session that comes late in the movie, one in which Linklater uses wisely to allow the pecking order to finally shake out.
They’re all dream chasers, after all, but who many of them can really be pro players after this fantastic four years?
Glen Powell, as smooth-talking chameleon Lothario Finn, and J. Quinton Johnson, as the friendly and smart lone black player on the squad, turn in memorable performances among a batch of turns that all have the same nag. Gosh, they look older than college kids as they compete at ping-pong, knuckle-slapping, darts, life … Ah, well …
Zoey Deutch also is terrific as Beverly, the woman who catches Jake’s eye with a single line at the start of the film. She’s in his mind through the disco and country bar dances, and when he finally makes his move, it turns out right. Their chemistry is a sweet one on the screen as an athlete and performing arts major finding common ground and that new zizz of attraction. His teammates, of course, want to know the play-by-play.
Having graduated from the University of Maryland in 1979 and before that SUNY Morrisvlle in 1977 with a close group of friends at the campus newspapers and radio station, I related to the camaraderie and college humor. I stamped it as Linklater, a few years younger than I, back from his Boyhood journey and fame. A week ago, I heard a radio interview in which he told of his college baseball teammates watching a preview of the movie he’d staged for them, and how they’d hooted and hollered. I bought in.
Alas, my dear wife Karen found it somewhat male-centric.
And, oh, that kick-butt soundtrack, from disco to rap to country to punk, right down to the title and its punctuation thanks to Van Halen.
What did you find more enjoyable, your high school or college-aged years, and why? Which did you find more important, your high school or college-aged years, and why? Which Richard Linklater movie is your favorite, and why?