This review is going to be pretty short, as there's nothing really worth talking about.
Slacker is a plotless film that follows losers around. Most of the time, these losers think they are geniuses. They talk about complicated issues, and give their theories on these issues. Every person the movie follows is that guy or girl you see on the street that starts talking to you about shit you don't care about. The only thing you can think about when around them is, I wanna get the fuck away from this weirdo.
Linklater made some good movies after this, and a bunch of critics adore this film. In my opinion, it is useless and boring. If listening to crackpots talk about nothing that really matters is your idea of a good time, have at it. I'll take Dazed and Confused, and Suburbia over this.
The beginning of the film shows a man getting into a taxi cab and discussing quantum physics with the cab driver. When he gets out, the film's focus switches to another story about a woman who got run over. The focus of the film gets passed from character to character over the next hour and forty-five minutes. It's an interesting idea - passing the film's action like a hot potato - but I found two major issues with the execution.
First, every character is interchangeable. I can't imagine the quantum physics guy radically disagreeing with the conspiracy theorist or the old anarchist. The film could have been one long monologue by the same character; it seems only coincidental that it's divided into different people.
Second, the stories are often senseless and pointless. Yes, I understand that the point of Slacker is to portray slackers who, on the surface, may lead senseless and pointless lives, but there are occasions when the bullshit these characters spew becomes overwhelmingly deep.
The film defies all the usual structural demands; there's no climax, rising action, or denouement. It just ends.
And overall, when it did, I though that I had just completed a chore, a marathon that got me nowhere and taught me nothing.
This is essentaiily a plotless tour through the bohemian or slacker culture of Austin, Texas where the audience follows people from one conversation to another (it's a cool technique) and gets a glimpse at some oddball people that can be really fun to listen to. The film is something of a generational statement defining what makes Generation X tick. I't kind of plays like a free-form documentary, which is kind of cool. It's hard to tell how many of the people are really actors, and how much acting is really happening.
Of the many eccentric characters, my two favorites are the Madonna Pap Smear Pusher (Butthole Surfers drummer Teresa Taylor) and an edlerly anarchist who befriends a guy who tries to burglarize his house. They probably are also the funneist and most interesting, but that's just me. I just wish that Taylor would have had more screen time.
Even though this film is an acquired taste, it's still gonna have a limited appeal. I'd give it a higher grade, but it was a little more boring than I thought it might be, and also a bit too long and rambling. I'm glad I saw it though because it kind of seems like the sort of thing that I myself would make (or would like to). Probably the greatest compliment I can pay this film is that it really helped push along the independent film scene of the 1990s. Without this film Kevin Smith wouldn't have a career, and the popularizing of the slacker culture wouldn't exist, and not having those two things would be a real shame.
Having a Breakthrough Day: That's okay, time doesn't exist.
The first film written and directed by Richard Linklater, this is a uniquely-structured and plotless film, following a single day in the life of an ensemble of mostly twenty-somethings in Austin. The film follows various characters and scenes, never staying with one character or conversation for more than a few minutes before picking up someone else in the scene and following them.
Old Anarchist: And remember: the passion for destruction is also a creative passion.
The movie is literally about nothing. We meet a whole assortment of characters, never see them again after their scenes consisting of either banter or dialog, and the movie eventually ends without having any standard structure. This is the kind of things some cult films are made of.
Disgruntled Grad Student: Every action is a positive action, even if it has a negative result.
Obviously done very cheaply and with no professional actors, the movie still manages to work due to the fact that the dialog is interesting, sometimes funny, but consistently approached in some sort of surrealist manner.
Hitchhiker: Every single commodity you produce is a piece of your own death!
This was one of the several films in the 90s that brought in the wave of independent films to wider audiences. It is also the film that inspired Kevin Smith to become a filmmaker. These points do not necessarily mean anything, but in terms of relating it somehow to someone, this is the kind of movie it is.
Nothing happens, but it is filled with conversations that are interesting and intriguing. Yep, that is what will pass as a recommendation.
Has Conquered Fear of Rejection: Do you have a car?
S-T-E-V-E with a Van: Do you have a car, I have *a van*, lets go!
Visual style is, of course, pretty important in a film this naturalist, and while this effort's filming is not as celebratory of a distinguished environment as the filming of "Learn to Plow" was, cinematographer Lee Daniel takes advantage of Richard Linklater's having equipment of much higher quality to work with by delivering on some appealingly even coloration and lighting that is relatively realistic enough to immerse, though not as much as the framing and camerawork. Richard Linklater's stylistic skills as a director are commendable, as his now-trademark and audacious usage of long and extensively intimate, yet smooth tracking shots nails a fly-on-the-wall feel that draws you into the world, no matter how much other directorial touches distance you, and it helps that the people Linklater follows so intensely and stylishly endear by their own right. Certainly, the performers aren't given much to do, but they are given the challenge of grounding themselves as characters who are both relatable and unique, and they succeed about as well as they can with questionably drawn roles, with enough distinctive charisma and, for that matter, chemistry bond you with the focuses of this sloppy ensemble opus. Each member of this diverse cast of mostly unknown talents convinces, perhaps thoroughly, and that's endearing, even more so than the writing, which doesn't even give you the common courtesy of being consistently believable while it unravels down a problematically minimalist path. However, as irony would have it, Linklater's script plays about as big a role in almost saving the film as it does in seeing the final product's collapse into mediocrity, being artistically overblown and maybe even intellectually overblown (Alright, Dick, we get it, you like to write characters with some kind of philosophical idea), but clever, at least in writing dialogue that ends up being instrumental in this minimalist character study, and attracts a fair deal of intrigue with its amusing snap and even using plenty of thoroughly interesting themes to mold unique, if sometimes unbelievable characters. I won't simply say that most of the film's problems derive simply from questionable ideas, I would consider the film very competent in a lot of ways, with an interesting visual style, convincing performances and even clever writing, all of which carry the potential to carry the final product a long way. The potential of the film in other areas, however, is so lacking that the strengths cannot transcend mediocrity, secured by a questionable style, and even by questionable characterization.
A pretty big novelty in this very naturalist ensemble piece is its focusing primarily on bohemian characters, and I can get behind that just fine maybe more often than not, seeing as how the performances at least provie to be relatively convincing, but there are more than a few times in which the film gets carried away with its intentionally eccentric characterization, being practically annoying at times with its crafting questionable characters, who could perhaps be easier to buy into if they were more fleshed out. The film barely puts any effort into character development, ostensibly because it, trying to cover many, many "stories" in the span of an hour-and-a-half, doesn't have time, switching from character to character, rarely to return, and simply studying on various slices of life, with no real focal consistency, just a meandering string of happenings. The film is utterly aimless in its going all over the place, yet ending up heading nowhere, because no matter how uneven the structure of the film is, it at least keeps consistent in natural shortcomings that limit potential through minimalism, exacerbated by an even more questionable medium for its story concept, or rather, subject matter. Almost in the vein of Linklater's debut, "It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books", this film has a basic concept as a portrait of eccentricity, but no real narrative, having a whole lot more substance than the near-unwatchably unfocused "Learn to Plow", but overstylized as a deliberately structureless abuse of an artistic license. The basic "storytelling" style concept of this film is aggravating enough on its own, and it seriously doesn't help that Linklater isn't even realized in the extent to which he experiments, having plenty of times in which he focuses on genuinely entertaining writing like he did with something along the lines of the at least more fleshed out "Before" trilogy, before jerking into the same artistically overblown, substanceless nonsense that destroyed "Learn to Plow". Not even the film's sloppy style is consistent, but really, what ultimately secures the final product as not even as compelling as the "Before" trilogy is its at least keeping consistent in dullness, challenged by clever writing, but not overpowered, like it ought to be if this effort stands a chance of endearing. The film has a certain something that "Learn to Plow" didn't, and that's highlights, of which there are almost enough to save the film, but only "almost", being ultimately outweighed by enough borderline tedium to its aimlessness to eventually lose effectiveness to its novelty and fall flat as a mediocre artistic misfire that isn't really worth your time.
In conclusion, an immersive visual style, convincing performances and even many clever, if not intelligent highlights in writing all but save the final product as genuinely decent, but under the weight of overly bohemian and undercooked characterization, inconsistent focus, and a questionably minimalist, unevenly handled and all around rather dull experimental structure, Richard Linklater's "Slacker" collapses as an almost generally interesting, but predominantly aggravatingly misguided slice of life affair.
2.25/5 - Mediocre