This movie, which wasn't actually Linklater's first but is the earliest one anyone seems to know about, is the first in his ongoing series of cinematic experiments with time. The Before trilogy is all about checking in with two characters on particular days years apart from each other; Boyhood follows one character for 12 years. Here, Linklater's experiment went in the opposite direction from that of Boyhood: rather than follow one character for a long time, he follows dozens and dozens of characters for a few minutes each over the course of a single day in Austin, Texas in 1990 or 1991. Some of them do interesting or bizarre things: a young man runs his mother over in a car and then has some sort of bizarre ceremony in his house; another guy is trying to watch ten TVs at once; an old man finds someone trying to rob his house and takes him out for a pleasant walk to talk about politics. Other people are just going about a fairly normal day: a woman walks to a coffee shop; some kids play in the woods; a young woman argues with her boyfriend. No matter what's going on, though, the film is never boring; most of the characters are oddballs or weirdos of some sort, though not outlandishly so.
It's a somewhat difficult film to evaluate in conventional terms, since it doesn't really concern itself with a narrative. I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed watching it, and its portrayal of college town life was pretty convincing to me. The Austin portrayed in this film reminded me a bit of Carrboro, North Carolina, where I live now; watching the movie almost makes me want to go make my own version of Slacker about the people living here. I really appreciated how smoothly Linklater's direction transitions us from one little story to the next. Purely from an entertainment perspective, it's nice to know that if you don't like one story or character, it'll be replaced by something else soon. The movie is funny and relaxed; it's the sort of movie I imagine would be easy to rewatch in later years. It's interesting, and kind of inspiring, how Linklater's totally naturalistic, low-key approach to filmmaking, which tends to make me think, "Hmm, I could do that!," still yields such fascinating results. If you're at all interested in Linklater, Austin, or the 90s in general, I definitely recommend Slacker.
Slacker, however, is genuine and entertaining while remaining entirely nonlinear and unconventional. Waking Life is (arguably) its sequel.
There is no apparent storyline and I have to agree that you do manage to lose interest during a few of the not so interesting character studies. But some of the characters really do have some incredible and eye opening stories to tell. For example, the initial sequence acted by Linklater himself is one of the best sequences in the movie where he describes a dream he has during the journey on his way to the city.
Linklater has a special talent for writing which manages to stick with philosophical topics but yet not make the content dry. This along with his experienced knowledge in film history making himself an incredible director is shown clearly in his different, risky and extremely creative debut into feature films after 9 long years of learning films and making short films. Richard Linklater is a true inspiration and I'm sure will go down as one of the great geniuses in film history!
I generally like character-driven dramas, but this was horrible. None of the characters are likeable. In fact, they're all incredibly loathsome. But hard to feel engaged in the movie if you hate ALL the characters...
Notable only for being Richard Linklater's second movie as director (and writer). Thankfully, he got better. A lot better. His next movie was Dazed and Confused...