It's the last day of school at a high school in a small town in Texas in 1976. The upperclassmen are hazing the incoming freshmen, and everyone is trying to get stoned, drunk, or laid, even the football players that signed a pledge not to.Written by
Jon Reeves <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I must concur with the other reviewers who have commented on the eerie accuracy of this film. I too attended high school in Texas in the 1970's, and this film is so flawless in recreating this time and place it lends the impression you were being documented without your knowledge. If you are of an age and background that permits you to relate to Dazed & Confused on this level, it will give you an unusual affinity for the film. This is exactly how we dressed and wore our hair, those are the cars we drove, the music we loved, that looks exactly like my high school (with only slight variations in paint colors), those seemed to be my teachers, and all of these people were the people I knew then. There is no question but that the author of this piece had to have been one of us.
As someone who was there, I hope I can clear up or offer some insight into a few of the points people have raised about the film. The drug use; well, it was the 70's. In my high school, really hardcore drugs such as heroin were virtually unknown, we talked about it but never saw it, but both marijuana and LSD were as common and available as sand in your shoes. My generation had a very permissive attitude toward these substances. My own clique would never have had the brass ones required to actually partake on campus, as getting caught would not have meant a detention but a trip to jail; on the other hand it was not infrequent to find us stoned in class. But we did leave campus to blow a joint, absolutely, (usually in either the home of one of us who lived nearby or a van that belonged to another of our group, parking at the shopping center down the street). In D&C we see Slater and some of his friends smoking weed right in the schoolyard, that didn't happen in my school. There wasn't a single teacher at my high school who would not have immediately recognized the odor of marijuana and sought out the source. With the clarity of thirty years hindsight, I remain of the opinion that we frankly had a healthier attitude on this subject than do so-called role models of today. Bad drug problems are bad drug problems, but the recreational use of marijuana is substantially less detrimental than either alcohol or tobacco, which both get a free pass because they're legal. Marijuana also failed to serve as a "gateway" drug in our clique, none of us were led by it into harsher substances. I'm glad I'm not in high school today.
One point of particular discussion I have noticed here on D&C's IMDb page is the movie's rather brutal depiction of hazing, "busting the freshmen". Several have reported that this did not occur at their school. You were lucky, and be glad of it. I attended high school in Dallas in the 1970's and this absolutely was a part of our life. I, like all girls, was spared the brutal whippings that Mitch and his friends have inflicted upon them by the seniors, but it absolutely happened to incoming freshmen boys and was generally sanctioned, or at least overlooked, by the adults in charge. For the record, YES IT IS ASSUALT AND BATTERY. Dang! What else do you call violently beating someone with a board until they cry? Battery, plain and simple. Outrageous, mean spirited and cruel, and frankly the homoerotic ass-fixated nature of this hazing paints a far more unflattering psychological portrait of those dealing out the punishment than of those receiving it. As girls we were at least not physically assaulted, but we did undergo some nasty initiation rituals, but usually only those of us trying to get into an organized club, not just all of us en masse simply because of our age (this is also depicted quite accurately in the film, what those poor girls endure from that bitch to get on the cheerleading squad, God love 'em). And it is likewise plainly obvious in the film just as it was in real life, the senior boys learned this bizarre monkey-like behavior from those bastions of simian progress, their "coaches", roles universally filled by academic failures who represent the Wooderson's of the future.
As disturbing as the hazing is, it belongs in the film because it was there, it was real, it was a part of our lives in that time and place, and I felt a delicious satisfaction when that one kid's mom met O'Bannion at the front porch cocking a shotgun. "I don't think so, creep!" You go girl! As both Mitch and Sabrina deal with the initiation rituals in a manner that is respected by their older peers and grants them access to the cool clique, it is too intrinsic to the storyline to be removed or whitewashed. I might add this is the only movie I have ever seen that captures this.
In summation, this is a movie directed at a rather specific audience. My friends who are of dramatically different age or grew up in a different part of the country do not generally relate to this movie nor enjoy it on the same level, although they often find it entertaining. But if you, like the filmmaker, were a Texas high school student in those amazingly permissive 1970's, and didn't particularly hate your life at the time, I think you'll absolutely love it. Highly recommended.
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