Dazed and Confused is a movie about nothing. Nothing happens at all for an hour and 40 minutes. It also happens to be one of the best movies about adolescence ever filmed.
Director Richard Linklater loves making these kinds of movies. Dazed takes place in a day, much like Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Slacker (also, Waking Life takes place in a night). All those films have little traditional story arc (introduction, build-up, climax, finale), instead using deep character development and mundane conversation to drive home big overarching themes and ideas. Drugs often help, too, as is the case with Dazed and A Scanner Darkly.
Even Linklater’s Hollywood films, School of Rock and Bad News Bears, which seemingly have nothing in common with his other work, share a theme of youthful angst with Dazed.
In more ways than one, Dazed and Confused is his masterwork: A film that captures all the ideas, feelings and dreams covered in part throughout his entire filmography.
What’s striking about the presentation of teens in 1976 U.S.A. is the lack of order and discipline. These kids do whatever the hell they want: Alcohol? Check. Drugs? Check. Violence? Check. Disorderly conduct and property destruction? Check.
Yet we know these characters well, because they are us, regardless of whether we grew up in The Great Depression or the Bush recession.
Who hasn’t dramatically stood up to authority to defend their beliefs and their “bad crowd” of friend, as Randall “Pink” Floyd does. Dazed and Confused shows us THE moment we found ourselves, and allows us to relive it as often as we like, minus the insecurity and boredom of that age.
THAT is why it is a great film.