So recently we watched Dazed and Confused, the classic coming-of-age comedy from 1993 by Richard Linklater:
I don’t remember why I put this movie in the queue, except that we had never seen it, and I didn’t remember anything about it, except that it was set in the 1970s and that it was Matthew McConaughey’s first big role. These are the things I told my wife when, as usual, I put the movie on and she said:
Wife: “What are we watching?”
After the first ten or fifteen minutes, I added another comment:
Me: “We probably would’ve been better off watching this when it came out.”
Me: “Because it’s a little high-schooley and high school was a long time ago now.”
Wife: “Isn’t Stranger Things also ‘a little high-schooley’?”
Me (beat): “Well okay but Stranger Things also has monsters from another dimension.”
Part of the fun, though, of watching this movie now is the retroactive recognition of actors who have become quite famous in the ensuing 30 years. As the longtime reader will probably guess, this was mostly done by me.
Me: “Hey, is that Ben Affleck?”
Me: “Look, it’s Parker Posey!”
Me: “It’s Milla Jovovich! You’ve heard of her, right?”
Wife: “Isn’t she a model or something?”
Me: “I think that’s Cole Hauser. Do you know who Cole Hauser is?”
Me: “He was in Pitch Black. You know, that movie with Vin Diesel where the aliens come out when it gets dark? Cole Hauser played the human bad guy, insofar as there was a human bad guy. Remember?”
Wife: “I remember Vin Diesel.”
Then finally Matthew McConaughey showed up. I kind of had to point him out, because he looked a little different here than he did in, say, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, which is one of my wife’s favorite rom-coms.
Me: “There’s Matthew McConaughey.”
Wife: “That’s him?”
Me: “Uh-huh. Would you have recognized him if I didnt tell you?”
Wife: “Just from the voice, maybe.”
And, after a while:
Wife: “I’m a little surprised Matthew McConaughey is the one who became a big star out of this movie. What about the kid?”
“The Kid” in question is Mitch, a freshman who is, arguably, the main character, and who spends much of the film being pursued by a group of seniors who want to paddle him with a cricket bat or something. Because, this being the 1970s, one had to get paddled by a cricket bat before one could move on to high school, apparently. For instance, here the seniors are at a local baseball game, amusing us with their subtitles as they call out to Mitch, the long-haired character in the foreground:
My wife was of the opinion that “The Kid” should have become a big star, based on his performance and centrality to the film, and was mildly disappointed when I looked him up and found out that he hadn’t.
It didn’t take us long to surmise that Dazed and Confused had no plot to speak of, but it was still interesting as a look back at small town high school life in the mid-70s, which, of course, my wife and I were too young to be involved in. Although some of what was going on did remind me of small town life in the early 80s, I suppose.
Me: “This kind of reminds me of growing up in Oriskany, except for the hazing and the partying in the woods and the smoking weed.”*
Wife: “This movie is nothing but hazing and partying in the woods and smoking weed.”
Me: “Well okay, but I mean, on Halloween we would run around the neighborhood trying not to get hit with shaving cream.”
Wife: “I don’t think that’s the same thing.”
Well okay, maybe not.
Dazed and Confused didn’t put my wife to sleep, exactly:
Me: “Do you like this movie?”
Wife: “Like is a strong word.”
Me: “But you’re still awake.”
Wife: “Nothing’s blowing up. I don’t go to sleep as fast when nothing’s blowing up.”
But she did get tired of watching it in fairly predictable 40-minute intervals:
Wife: “Too much testosterone. Can we watch Killing Eve now?”
So it took us about three sessions to watch it through to the end, where, according to my wife, the mystery of why Mitch never became a big star was revealed:
Wife: “Wiley Wiggins? You can’t become a big movie star with a name like Wiley Wiggins! Poor kid. Why didn’t he change it?!”
So, sure, maybe you can’t become a big star with a name like Wiley Wiggins; but you could have become one hell of an Old West outlaw, am I right?
* I’m sure there was partying in the woods and smoking weed going on somewhere around town, but I wasn’t there.