Been dazed and confused for so long ...
— Led Zeppelin
Before DirectTV changed its lineup recently for about the 74th time in the three years I’ve been getting the satellite TV service — which is code for they’re about to charge you more for the premium channels you’re watching — the 1993 semi-cult classic “Dazed and Confused” came on late one night.
I had to watch.
As a matter of fact, “Dazed” can come on at any time of the day or night, and if I happen to see it, I’m in. It’s one of those movies — along with “The Departed,” “Cool Hand Luke,” “Night Shift,” “The Hangover,” “The Godfathers (I and II),” “Caddyshack,” “Tin Cup,” “Billy Jack,” “The Exorcist” — that never, ever gets old.
Of course, I’ve always figured the reason I loved “Dazed and Confused” so much is the incredible soundtrack. I mean, it’s got “Slow Ride” by Foghat, “Tush” and “Balinese” by ZZ Top, “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith, “Fox on the Run” by Sweet, “Highway Star” by Deep Purple, “Jim Dandy” by Black Oak Arkansas ... and that’s just a handful of the songs off the top of my head. It’s any ‘70s music fan’s mother lode.
But while watching “Dazed” the other night — for about the 38th time — it dawned on me that there’s much more to this movie than a nostalgic trip back to when life was really good and there was a whole lot of fantastic music. As with any really great movie, or at least any movie that truly resonates with a particular viewer, “Dazed” is memorable because it’s easy to imagine one’s self in any of the various roles.
I’ve never had a problem relating to Randall “Pink” Floyd, one of the “Dazed and Confused” lead characters. As portrayed by Jason London, Pink is quarterback at football-mad Lee High School in the suburbs of Austin, Texas. He’s having trouble falling in line with over-the-top Coach Conrad, who wants team members to sign a pledge not to ... well, do any of the things teenagers tend to do.
Pink’s not exactly a falling-in-line kind of guy, especially given the oddball friends he hangs out with.
I’m sure plenty of “Dazed” fans relate to Slater, the party-any-time pot-head who, in a moment of drug-induced enlightenment, waxes eloquent on George and Martha Washington’s reliance on pot during revolutionary times. Rory Cochrane, who may be better known to many as the dearly departed “Speedle” on “CSI: Miami,” played that role way better than he should have, and certainly anyone who came of age in the ‘70s was or had a friend a lot like Slater.
I also saw elements of my life in freshman Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins), fish-out-of-water nerd Mike Newhouse (Adam Goldberg) and even the bullying of the movie’s biggest jerk, Fred O’Bannion, played with just the right amount of clueless menace by a young Ben Affleck.
Sadly for many of the more directionless among us, we see elements of our post-high school selves in the legendary David Wooderson, hilariously played by future Hollywood hunk Matthew McConaughey. Wooderson, whose classic lines include “You got a joint? No ... It’d be a lot cooler if you did.” and “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.” — delivered, of course, while wasted — is that older guy who hangs around with the younger high school kids just a little too long after graduation.
People I’ve urged to watch “Dazed and Confused” have asked me the obvious question: What’s the movie about? I don’t have a good answer for that. On the surface, “Dazed” is about nothing at all; it’s teenagers fighting boredom during a typical summer night in Smalltown, USA. But dig a little deeper, watch a little closer, and you realize the movie is really about everything. It’s all the people we have met, have been or probably will become at some point in our lives.
If that’s a little too vague, “Dazed” is still the perfect trip back to the 1970s. That and an absolutely perfect soundtrack make it worth the time you invest in watching it.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.