By Richard Winters
My Rating: 8 out of 10
4-Word Review: A movie about nothing.
A look at a day-in-the-life of society’s left behinds that filter the streets, bars and coffee shops of Austin, Texas. The viewer hears a wide variety of weird topics, theories and extreme political points-of-view from the detached 20-something crowd as the camera winds its way from one conversation to the next and never stopping on any one person for longer than a few minutes.
This was considered at the time of its release to be a major breakthrough for the independent film movement and one that remains an inspiration for many indie filmmakers today. It succeeds because it proves you don’t need a big budget, state-of-the-art effects or even a compelling story to work. It washes all those things away and gets down to the very essence of why we watch movies, which is because we are all secretly voyeurs intrigued with seeing how the ‘other half’ lives without having to get our own feet wet in the process. The characters, as offbeat as they and their conversations may be, have a definite element truth to them and this film manages to convey reality far better than 95 percent of the other movies out there.
Some of my favorite conversations, which seem mostly ad-libbed, involved the one with the guy who was obsessed with the JFK assassination and his ‘shocking’ new revelations involving Jack Ruby’s dog. There are also the two young men inside a bar who talk about the ‘subliminal messages’ of the Smurf cartoons and the film’s director Richard Linklater who opens the film with a discussion on how every choice that we don’t make continues off and has a reality of its own. I also liked the anarchist (Louis Mackey) who talks about the man who assassinated President McKinley simply because all you ever hear about are the Kennedy and Lincoln assassinations and never anything about anything about the other two.
I also liked Teresa Taylor, who was the former drummer for the Butthole Surfers, playing a woman trying to sell a vial containing singer Madonna’s Pap smear and the guy who locks himself inside a room with what seems like hundreds of TV’s that run all day and night. However, I was a bit disappointed that during this scene we get shown a video of a man who supposedly shots the camera with his rifle and although he does indeed aim his gun at the lens he never fires it, which I found to be a letdown.
Some may consider these characters, in our very job oriented culture, to be ‘losers’ simply because they ‘aren’t working’ and being ‘productive members of society’, but director Linklater takes a different perspective by stating in an interview that he feels slackers are instead a ‘step ahead’ and ‘rejecting the social hierarchy before it rejects them’.
To some extent I agree as I was pretty much the same way at that age, but I also couldn’t help but think what these same characters were doing now 20 years later. It’s easy to be detached when you’re younger, but when a person reaches middle-age and the financial responsibilities become stronger, it’s not, so I kept wondering if these same people may have now ‘sold-out’ or even ‘grown up’. I also wondered how they may have evolved in other ways for instance the guy who was so into the conspiracies of the JFK assassination may now have crossed over to ones involving 9/11 and the young man that was really into TV’s may now be a Blu-ray player nut instead. If anything this is a movie crying out for a sequel and one that could easily be just as fascinating as the first one especially if it involved the same people.
My Rating: 8 out of 10
Released: March 22, 1991
Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes
Director: Richard Linklater
Studio: Orion Classics
Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray (Criterion Collection), Amazon Instant Video