As soon as I heard about this I wanted to see it. Director Richard Linklater’s as he puts it ‘spiritual sequel’ to one of my all-time favourite movies; Dazed and Confused. This like Dazed follows a group of high school students but is now set in 1980 rather than that movie’s 70s and on the eve of starting college as apposed to the last day of school. It primarily follows baseball pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner) as he arrives at a frat house and becomes acquainted with the rest of the college baseball team; a group of guys who seem obsessed with getting high, partying and getting laid.
It’s hard to not make comparisons with that earlier movie, as I kept being drawn back to it for everything this one lacked. Jake is the only particularly likeable character here but even he has very little ark but for a tacked-on romance towards the end. Everyone else are simply obnoxious stoners or loud-mouthed jocks who despite being believable … I really wouldn’t enjoy being in the company of. Also Jake’s story is the only one we follow, nobody else has a ‘journey’ or any real defined personality and frankly several of the characters are very similar to one another. Also situations rarely had any pay off, like an early scene with a water bed and a little later on one character having to leave for the weekend because his girlfriend might be pregnant … but when he returns, it’s never mentioned again.
That’s not to say the movie doesn’t have it’s merits. Linklater’s keen observations of the era and setting are well done and the soundtrack on the whole is decent (the movie starts off well with The Knack’s ‘My Sharona’). And well, It all looks pretty good too, shot with an early eighties vibe that works a treat. Just a shame the wafer thin characters and lack of interesting situations means that unlike ‘Dazed it’s unlikely this one will achieve anywhere near the same cult status.
This for a long time has been my go-to movie to just chill out and relax with. Something about this 70’s set high school comedy-drama just feels very comfortable. I’ll put this on occasionally because hell, I enjoy being in the company of these characters probably more than any movie I can think of.
Set on the last day of school this follows the (mis)adventures of various school kids as they go to parties, hang out, drive around, cause a bit of mischief, contemplate their futures and learn a little bit about themselves along the way. You could say the main character is a freshman called Mitch (Wiley Wiggens) who is one of several targets for drop out thug O’Bannion (a before he was famous Ben Affleck) who likes to spank these kids with a softball bat as some sort of ‘initiation’. Mitch gets into various encounters and we follow his story but at the same time we have quarterback ‘Pink’ who’s trying to figure out if he’s going to stay on in the college football team, and along the way we meet several other fascinating and interesting personalities like super-sleazy but super-cool Matthew McConaughey and a stoner hippy chick Mila Jovavich.
I think there is a character in this movie for anyone to relate to, someone was one of these characters when they were at school – were you the cool guy the girls all looked at, or the geeky kid that just wanted to fit in, or someone in-between? That’s the magic of this and add Richard Linklater’s assured, very authentic and (clearly in love with the subject matter) direction, mixed with a soundtrack to die for (Ozzy, Deep Purple, Cooper…they’re all here) … and I think this is one of the best high school movies ever made – if not THE best high school movie ever made.
The Blu-ray that I imported from the U.S. may not be the bells-and-whistles Criterion release (I reviewed the Criterion DVD release HERE). Yet this Universal edition boasts a picture full of fine detail even if the colours lack a little vibrancy (but seem to suit the 70’s look and feel). However the big showpiece here is the soundtrack with clear dialogue, decent use of surrounds and most importantly the iconic music given major, thumping treatment to really show off your speakers (has Alice Cooper’s School’s Out ever sounded better?). Extras are rather limp however with no commentary and little more than deleted scenes and a music feature that you can bring up with Universal’s U-Play mode. Very disappointing for a movie that that for me, is a stone cold classic.
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