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Film / Dazed and Confused

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"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."

Austin, Texas, 1976: It's the last day of High School, the seniors are hazing the incoming freshmen, and Kevin has decided to throw a kegger. One freshman, Mitch Kramer, is taken under the wing of Randall "Pink" Floyd, a senior. Meanwhile, a group of nerdy friends, Cynthia, Mike, and Tony, decide to go make their last day one to remember. The two stories dovetail at the party.

Dazed and Confused is a 1993 Coming of Age Story written and directed by Richard Linklater. The movie's large Ensemble Cast featured a number of future stars, including Matthew McConaughey, Jason London, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Cole Hauser, Parker Posey, Anthony Rapp, Adam Goldberg, Joey Lauren Adams, Nicky Katt, and Rory Cochrane.

Basically, it's American Graffiti made in The '90s instead of The '70s, and set in The '70s instead of The '60s.

The title of the film is derived from the Led Zeppelin song of the same name. Linklater approached surviving members of the band for permission to use their songs in the movie, but, while Jimmy Page agreed, Robert Plant refused.

This movie contains examples of:

  • The '70s: The movie is set on the last day of school in 1976.
  • Adults Are Useless: All the adults except Carl's mom are cool with the seniors hazing the incoming freshmen. Tony comments on this.
  • Advertised Extra: Milla Jovovich's character has very little screentime for someone who appears on both the movie's poster and home video covers. While Jovovich hadn't yet achieved the fame she would later, between her modeling career and handful of roles in films like Kuffs and Return to the Blue Lagoon she was possibly the biggest star in the cast in 1993.
  • Alpha Bitch: Head cheerleader Darla; unlike the rest of the senior girls, who switch out of bitch mode once the official hazing is done, Darla never stops.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Mike Newhouse, at least in fitting the nerdy, academic stereotype thereof.
  • Bad to the Bone: It's a movie about the last day of school set in 1976, so, yeah, the final bell scene is done to the tune of "School's Out".
  • Bathroom Stall Graffiti: In the high school girls' bathroom, the graffiti over Jodi's shoulder reads, "Jodi Kramer is stuck up!!"
  • Best Years of Your Life: See Page Quote
  • Big Brother Mentor: Pink to Mitch; their relationship is one of the most important of the film.
  • Breakout Character: David Wooderson. Originally a more minor character, Richard Linklater was so impressed with Matthew McConaughey's performance, he ended up writing much more dialogue for him.
  • Calling Shot Gun: Shotgun is Slater's official position in the car. Remember this.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Majorly averted. Lots of underage drinking, drink driving, smoking weed, an adult with designs on minors, destruction of property, the main character kisses a girl other than his girlfriend, a group of stoners even get caught trespassing by the cops while they're smoking pot, but not a single person gets in any trouble.
  • Cool Big Sis: Jodi toward Mitch and, via unofficial adoption, Sabrina.
  • Cool Car: Pickford's GTO is, in the argot of the period, bitchin'.
    • Pickford's car is just one of many examples. Let's just say that if you're a fan of classic American muscle cars and pickup trucks, you'll probably like this movie.
  • Cue the Billiard Shot: One of the scenes at the youth club starts with an overhead shot of a rack being broken by one of the characters.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The fight at the party between Mike and Clint, with Clint as stomper and Mike as "stompee".
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Hazing incoming freshmen on the last day of school were frowned upon in 1993 (though not as much as it is today), and the movie seems to toy with the audience's modern-day sensibilities whenever it's depicted. But in the film's 1976 setting, it's seen by the characters as just another traditional rite of passage.
    • Nutritional attitudes are also not quite where they are in the 20-teens:
    ...and remember to get plenty of calcium. It's important for pregnant women to get plenty of calcium. (Liquor store clerk, to pregnant customer, buying booze and smokes.)
    He later tells her, "See you again tomorrow."
  • Drugs Are Good: Contrary to popular belief, this film does NOT have this message. Only one character (Slater) is a full-blown stoner. And the negative effect frequent pot smoking has had on his mental health is fairly obvious. On the other hand, multiple characters are shown "recreationally" smoking pot throughout the film, so the real message seems to be "all things in moderation."
  • Ephebophile: Wooderson, arguably the movie's most famous, or at least most memetic character.
    Wooderson: That's what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.
  • Erotic Dream: Tony tells Mike about a rather disturbing one.
    Tony: So there I am, getting it on with this perfect female body, and...
    Mike: ...What?
    Tony: I can't say.
    Mike: No, you can't give a build-up like that and not deliver. You know, a perfect female body, it’s not a bad start.
    Tony: But with the head of Abraham Lincoln. With the hat and the beard...everything.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: Averted. The film takes place in the suburbs of Austin, but the Texas stereotypes are all missing.
    • Except the high school football stereotype, which is partially averted. The star player, Floyd, is not very passionate about playing ball. Although it is played straight with the adult characters.
    • Austin itself is kind of an aversion both in real life and the movie.
  • Evil Redhead: Downplayed with Benny, he's not necessarily evil, just a huge Jerkass, and averted entirely with Cynthia.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The entire movie takes place from late afternoon of one day to the early morning hours of the next.
  • Freshman Fears: The film begins with the senior football players brutally hazing all the freshmen on the last day of school. The rest of the film involves Randall, the protagonist, mentoring a freshman who survived the hazing.
  • Freudian Excuse: In one of the Deleted Scenes, just before Benny whacks a freshman he says: "Like my dad used to say to me: "Say Benny, this is gonna hurt you a lot more than it's gonna hurt me.""
  • Girls Like Musicians: Lampshaded when Pink talks about quitting the football team:
    "I don't know, I just think it'd be the same if we were in a band."
  • "Have a Nice Day" Smile: Unsurprisingly, the one used in the movie poster looked fairly baked.
  • Held Back in School: Fred O'Bannion. Allegedly, he purposely flunked his senior year just so he could haze the freshman another year.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: In a deleted scene right before her confrontation by Darla, Sabrina admits to Tony her reason for participating in the hazing is because she was never able to fit in before. This is Lampshaded in the beginning of the film when Jodi first recruits Sabrina; at the time, Sabrina is hanging with a group of other outcast girls, one of whom can be heard questioning what makes Sabrina so special that she's the only one invited.
  • Improbably Cool Car: Many owned by the named characters as well as several appearing in the background.
  • Jerkass: Darla, Clint and O'Bannion.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In his one serious scene, Benny points out to Pink that the latter quitting the football team as starting quarterback during their senior year would jeopardize the entire team, and the head coach is correct in that Pickford's crowd couldn't care less whether the team wins or loses.
  • Jerk Jock: O'Bannion.
    • All the male hazing seniors are this to a lesser degree, except Pink. O'Bannion is notable for being the most sadistic, and unlike the others, he does not accept the younger kids once the initiation is through.
    • Even Don Dawson, a generally nice guy, casually makes like he's going to punch out a nerdy fellow high-schooler just for the fun of making him cower.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Vicious bully O'Bannion gets his from a group of freshmen with buckets of paint.
  • Last-Name Basis: Hirschfelder, O'Bannion, Pickford, Slater and Wooderson.
  • Lovable Jock: Main protagonist Randy "Pink" Floyd is the school's star football player, but unlike most of his teammates, he is friendly to all of the cliques - his fellow jocks, the stoners, even the nerds. In fact, it's his insistence to hang out with "losers" like the stoner kids that proves to be a main point of contention between himself and his coach and some teammates, especially Jerk Jock Benny.
  • Mailbox Baseball: Pink, Pickford, Don and Mitch go cruising while drinking beer and smoking weed, and decide to play a game of mailbox baseball. The game comes to an end when a homeowner brandishing a gun threatens to call the police. They barely escape after the resident fires at their car.
  • Mama Bear: Carl's mom defends her son with a shotgun.
  • Moral Guardian: The coaches of the football team are trying to get the whole team to sign a no drinking/smoking/toking pledge. Played with in that they're not nearly so concerned about the morality (or legality) of such actions as they are having a winning team.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: All of the ads (trailers, posters, TV spots) promoted it as a Stoner Flick. There's one prominent supporting character and a few bit parts who actually are. On the other hand, weed is a constant presence at every teen gathering, and even those who don't indulge casually acknowledge it.
  • Nice Guy: Pink. Gets along well with everyone, has no interest in hazing the freshman, prevents people from getting beaten up, is someone people can talk to about their problems, and can make drunken bullies calm down just by telling them to.
  • Nostalgia Filter: Played around with. Being a warts'n'all depiction of seventies teendom, we see all the things they enjoyed and also all the things they endured. Particular note should be made of the scene where last day of school ends, and "School's Out" playing gloriously on the soundtrack... as children run like their asses are on fire to get away from a gang of bullies.
  • Nothing but Hits: Played with. Most of the tracks featured are iconic of 70s rock and equally well-known today, but several were fairly obscure genre or regional (Southern American) hits and none were chart-toppers in the year that the picture is set. Like the protagonists in Detroit Rock City (to which the picture has frequently been compared — even in one peer-reviewed academic journal!), the teens in this world do not listen to the music that dominated the charts in 1976.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Tony, Mike and Cynthia, the three most intellectual teens and apparent longtime friends, show no romantic interest in each other, and do not act jealous when they show interest in other people.
    • Though Tony and Mike do get a bad case of Squick when Wooderson flirts with Cynthia, and she obviously likes it. Mike tells us why, though: "Do you realize when he graduated we were like three years old?"
    • Massive flirtation goes on throughout, but serious relationships are barely alluded to by any of the characters. Mitch may have a future with (slightly) older woman Julie, though.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Randall "Pink" Floyd.
  • Pet the Dog: With the exception of bitch Darla and asshole O'Banion, all the other seniors adhere to the unwritten rule that once someone has been hazed, they are accepted into the fold. Giving them a beer, taking them out cruising, treating them as equals, making certain to spread the word that someone has been hazed so that they don't get it twice, all of this is done practically right after some male freshman has just had his ass paddled into numbness, or a female student has been run through a car wash.
  • Politically Motivated Teacher: Ms. Stroud.
    Okay guys, one more thing, this summer when you're being inundated with all this American bicentennial "Fourth of July" brouhaha, don't forget what you're celebrating, and that's the fact that a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic, white males didn't want to pay their taxes.
  • Random Events Plot: There really isn't a plot per se. Everyone just drives around after school ends until the party starts. Even then things still just sort of happen.
  • Retraux: Even the cinematography is handled in a manner that makes the movie feel like the '70s. There's quite a bit more film grain than in most other '90s movies, and the way the soundtrack and sound quality are handled is very reminiscent of movies made in the '70s.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Darla's reason for targeting Sabrina at the moontower party is because the latter is Jodi's protégé. While cruising, Darla and BFF Simone get Shavonne to admit that (presumably) Jodi respectively referred to the two as a bitch and a slut. Darla and Simone also observe the latter's boyfriend Pink in friendly dialogue with Jodi outside the Emporium after Pink had told Simone at school that he'd be spending the evening with the guys. What better of a way for a bully to exact revenge by not only going after a younger girl who has difficulty standing up for herself, but that of an enemy's new friend.
  • Senior Year Struggles: It takes place on the last day of high school, and focuses in part on seniors Passing the Torch to freshmen — the senior football players haze the freshmen, then the rest of the film involves Randall mentoring Mitch, a Freshman, in the ways of parties, etc.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of Pink's friends calls Tony and Mike "Woodward and Bernstein".
    • The very fact that Randal Floyd's nickname is "Pink," an unsubtle nod to '70s Progressive Rock band Pink Floyd.
    • During class Shavonne and some other students are listing the Gilligan's Island episodes. Later in the bathroom, Kaye compares the attractiveness of the TV show's women to the mediocrity of the men, concluding that male audiences are quite pleased with what they see while female fans get nothing.
    • When O'Bannion relates his encounter with Carl's mom to his football buddies, the sign for the Drive-In Theater behind them is advertising Family Plot, the last feature by Alfred Hitchcock.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Pink is the only main character that appears on the movie poster and DVD cover.
  • Spiking the Camera: Happens a few times, a consequence of using some very fresh actors and random locals as extras.
  • The Stoner: Slater, and to (much) lesser extents Kevin and Michelle.
  • Stoners Are Funny: The point of Slater.
  • Talent Double: Prior to filming, Wiley Wiggins (Mitch Kramer) had never thrown a baseball in his life. Because of this, a double was used in the pitching scenes.
  • That Nostalgia Show: To the '70s, specifically the non-Disco Seventies.
  • Titled After the Song: Titled after Led Zeppelin song "Dazed and Confused". The director tried to feature it, but Robert Plant vetoed.
  • Two Decades Behind: One of the central points of this 1993 film is to glorify the comparable freedom teenagers had during the mid-'70s.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Tony, Mike, and Cynthia.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Mike, when he gets drunk enough at the party to decide to take on Clint, the bully who humiliated him earlier. He figures that he will just sucker-punch Clint, then cover up while everyone runs over to break up the fight (it's a party, after all, and everyone will want to stop the fight so as to keep the good mood going. Right?). Therefore, he won't get hurt. Unfortunately, after he punches Clint, he looks around in bewilderment because people aren't running over to break up the fight, they're running over to watch the fight. By the time Pink and Wooderson finally manage to get through the crowd to pull Clint off, Mike has had his ass thoroughly kicked.
  • Video Credits: The end credits show a picture of each main character with the actor's name.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The film does not resolve one lesser loose end — the apparent fallout between Pink and Benny over the former's reluctance, and ultimately, refusal to sign their coach's waiver.
  • What's In It For Me?:
    Freshman Girl: Will you marry me?
    Dawson: I don't know. What's in it for me?
  • Wild Teen Party: Initially subverted, as the keg delivery guy comes early, tipping off Kevin's parents. But later played straight: there is in fact a wild teen party, but it happens out in the woods, away from houses and parents.