Dazed and Confused details one night in the lives a of a bunch of Texas highschoolers on the last day of school, 1976. From the moment that GTO ambles into the parking lot, I’m hooked. You can have your Bulliitts and Vanishing Points and Ronins, but give me a slow motion GTO with smoke billowing out of the windows any day. (Unless you can give me a Barracuda being chased by a tall shapeshifting mortician from space, of course. Then give me that.) There’s not really a story, but a bunch of intersecting lives. Randall “Pink” Floyd has to choose whether or not to play football next year, in and doing so, he has to choose between his two groups of friends. Kevin Pickford (the GTO) wants to have a keg party, but he has to wait for his parents to leave for the weekend. O’Bannion failed his senior year so he could be a dick two years in a row. Mitch and his friends, the incoming freshmen, just want to avoid getting hazed by the seniors, while the incoming freshman girls actively sign up to be hazed by the girls. The only three nerds at the school reluctantly want to go to the party and hopefully hook up, and also not get their asses kicked. Actually, I like the partying part of the plot better than the ass kicking. When the keg party gets ruined, there’s a party in a field by a light called the Moon Tower, and you feel like you’re at the party. The kids stay up all night, and go off our screens and into their summer as the movie ends.
I saw Dazed and Confused when it first showed up in the video stores. I was 18 or 19, so it was super cool. My friends and I used to go see it at the Georgia Theater in Athens every quarter. I’ve seen this way more times than I’ve seen Rocky Horror. I always hated it when the audience laughed at the nerd who kissed the girl at the end of the party. Assholes. I’m sure at some point I had some kind of fan book that had more information about the characters, but who knows where it ended up. I wasn’t really interested in any of the guys in the movie, but I thought Mitch’s sister Jodi and her friend Kaye were both cool and hot. And yeah, the professor was sexy, without a hint of irony. Ten years after college, when I met my current husband, I bought him the Criterion Edition on the first birthday of his that we were dating. That was when I realized this film had somehow become the kind of thing that was considered culturally relevant to all film fans and not just the kind of people who go to midnight movies. A friend of mine confessed to me just a few years ago that he had had a dream that he and I were at the party at the Moon Tower and somehow I thought that was one of the nicest things anyone ever said to me, that they wanted to be at the Moon Tower with me, subconsciously.
Dazed and Confused is the first place I encountered Matthew McConaughey. He was an instant classic. Almost every time I find out about a guy who always dates younger women, I think or say “he gets older; they stay the same age.” I know Ben Affleck was here too, but I didn’t really take much notice of him until Chasing Amy came out. I think this may have been the first movie in which I saw Parker Posey as well. Her popular bully Darla at the hazing of the freshman girls makes me glad I was like the redheaded nerdy girl and rarely got invited to any such shenanigans, even though I just admitted I would have liked to be at the Moon Tower party. I’m a big fan of Posey’s work, especially in the Christopher Guest mockumentaries, but I’d be afraid to meet her because of this movie.
Just like I have to mention that the guy gets older and the girls stay the same age, I have to refer to myself as Issac Fucking Newton every time I mention something about making an observation, and I’m always kind of mad at that dude who beat up the nerdy guy whenever I see him in another movie. Yep, except for the mega famous or indie famous people, all these actors are always going to be their character from this film. It’s still real to me dammit!
Because I like it better than the version used at the junior high dance, I sang Gram Parsons’s arrangement of “Love Hurts” to go with this article: http://www.singsnap.com/karaoke/watchandlisten/play/b6ac9f27f