Slacker – 1991
Director – Richard Linklater
Starring – A cast of tens…
I just finished this movie, and I have to say that just like most all of Richard Linklater’s other films that I’ve seen, it was completely AWFUL! At this point I’ve resigned myself to the knowledge that his movies are just not meant for me, and despite my aversion to them, a lot of people really like his work.
I felt the same way when I first saw Waking Life, the first of Linklater’s movies that I saw. I attributed my dislike for the movie to the entire experience of seeing the movie with my ex-girlfriend, while we were fighting, in New York City in November of 2001, less than two months after September 11th. I figured that all the anxiety that I had built up surrounding the scary flight to New York (the first flight I took after the terrorist attacks), the strange and awkward interaction with my ex, and the chip on my shoulder from having come from Chicago (How could New York be better than Chicago?!! I had come to NYC fully prepared, and almost predisposed to loathing and hating the place.), had caused me to improperly judge the movie as well. Wrong! It sucked ass! The dialogue was atrocious, the pacing was way too slow, you could stand a spoon up in the pretentiousness of the movie.
I decided that maybe that one movie of his wasn’t for me, so I tried again with A Scanner Darkly. I love Philip K. Dick, each of the movies based on his works, while not as good as the original written material, had their good qualities. Sometimes their greatness propelled them into something completely independent of the book, and able to stand on it’s own merits (I’m looking at you Total Recall!!!) There is no way this couldn’t be even a little redeeming. Nope! More of the same. Boring, boring, boring. Under-utilized animation! Shitty acting! And while I understand the story, and I realize that it is complex and takes a long time to develop, that doesn’t mean you should slow it to a snails pace. What’s worse is, while I was pulling my hair out, staring at other people in the theater to see if they were having the same reaction, two of the people that I went to see it with loved it.
I figured okay, maybe this Linklater guy just got himself onto some sort of hyper philosophical bent, and was branching away from the core of what made him famous, and well respected. You know, what made him good. So I check out Dazed and Confused…not bad. Not good, but considering what I had seen already, not bad.
Things seemed to be getting better the further back I went, so the obvious conclusion was that I needed to check out Slacker. I’ve read that it was the inspiration for Kevin Smith to say, “Hey, I can do this too!”, and ultimately make Clerks. Well, I liked Clerks, so it stands to reason that I should like the inspiration for Clerks…
At this point it’s moved past “Shame on him…”, and beyond “Shame on me…”, and right into “What the fuck was I expecting?” Boring, pointless character after boring, pointless character. Each wandering around in this stoner heaven without purpose, espousing their views on everything from alternate realities, laws of perception, anarchy, and art as form. It’s just too bad that none of this goes anywhere. Some of these ideas are compelling (as were some of the ideas from Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly), but none of them are either fully realized, or dwelled upon for long enough to hold our attention. Instead this fractured stew of half baked ideas is supposed to represent some grand tapestry of the human condition. Forever aware of it’s own mortality, and unable to do anything about it. Shit, I would rather watch 3 hours of first year film school films while reading poetry written by high schoolers than have to sit through Slacker again.
Movies that have handled similar ideas in better ways include, The Matrix, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Donnie Darko, Back to the Future, Jacob’s Ladder, anything David Lynch has written, directed, or looked at in a magazine, and The Butterfly Effect. The fucking Butterfly Effect, for Christ’s sake, did it better than this movie.
From here on out, there is no tricking me any further. Richard Linklater is off limits for good. He could sign on to direct a movie about time traveling, robot, ninjas on a mission to stop Richard Nixon from travelling back in time to assassinate JFK, starring George Clooney, Alain Delon, and Orson fucking Welle’s reanimated corpse, and I still wouldn’t see it. There is a reason that Kevin Smith thought “Hey, I can do this too!”, it’s because apparently, anyone can.
“You know your pot-head, best friend, who talks endlessly about nothing? Apparently he made a movie.” – Ashley