Richard Linklater is one of those names in cinema that just strikes me with a sense of quirkiness, probably because he’s such a unique director. This is the guy who would go on to direct films like Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, with their notable use of rotoscoping, the Before series, which are all critically acclaimed, and the upcoming Boyhood, which was filmed literally over the course of a young boy’s lifetime to accurately portray a young boy coming of age. To say that Linklater is willing to take chances is to be perfectly blunt and obvious, so why then does his breakout feature, Slacker, have such an apathy about it? Well, I guess I shouldn’t ask that question; one look at the type of people that Slacker has caught on film, and all questions go out the window, along with the sense that one should do anything at any time instead of just vegging out on the couch and… being.
Slacker, the film, is essentially plotless; it instead hopscotches from one person to the next as they run into each other over the span of a day in Austin, Texas. Almost as a show of good faith, Linklater himself appears as the first subject, the passenger in the taxi segment that opens the film, and from there, each section begins and ends by following a new person that comes into play once the current bit of conversation is up. So what is there if there is no plot? Well… nothing, and that’s the point. The vacuous, pseudo-philosophical emptiness of these people lives and minds is exactly the point; that’s how these people live, and this film acts as a chronicle of this way of life, if indeed it can be called that. Personally, I’m not sure why someone would want to chronicle the lives of people like this, but I suppose Linklater believed that they were a large enough percentage that they deserves some sort of representation on film. In terms of production quality, Slacker is as bare-bones as you can get. No real cinematography (though the camera does get somewhat inventive at times), non-professional actors, as-is found locations; hell, the boom mike even drops right into the shot on occasion, so you know this film is only barely trying to hold itself together. The fact that there is even a director of photography listed in the end credits is of endless hilarity to me. The script is probably the only standout mention, but largely thanks to the mindset this film tried to instill in me, I didn’t really give it too much thought.
I get the same impression of the cultural wave that followed in the wake of Slacker as the wave of financial upstarts and entrepreneurs that followed in the wake of the film Wall Street. I don’t remember where I heard this said about Gordon Gekko, but it really hit on all cylinders; that so many people have come up to Oliver Stone and Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas and said that they got into the financial business because they wanted to be like Gordon Gekko, when the reality of the film is that you’re NOT supposed to want to be like Gordon Gekko – that he personifies and epitomizes the greedy, take-no-prisoners, throw-the-world-under-the-bus-for-a-dollar mindset that’s screwing up the financial world as bad as it is, and is supposed to be exactly the opposite of the concept of a “role model”. Slacker is exactly that; you’re not supposed to want to be like these people, and yet so many wannabe “slackers” popped up in the aftermath of this film that it dogged a whole generation with the label, and even still today it brings to mind so many people in the world who just want to do nothing and be nothing and just live in this… ennui. It’s a sad existence, and it’s and even sadder thought that there are people who aspire to such an existence, if this film (and the 90s) are any indication. This is pretty well written, even if what the people and characters say isn’t really worth two cents, but for Linklater to so fully capture this lifestyle in the written word is pretty impressive, in my opinion. Don’t watch this expecting to get anything out of it, because getting something out of your investment is pretty much the opposite mentality that this film cultivates, and quite honestly, I’m not even fully convinced this is an experience that is worth having, let alone a must see, but I suspect that to be a bit of a more personal affront than anything objective. Just don’t get too caught up in this film’s mood, like I tend to do when I watch films, or you just might spend the whole rest of the day doing absolutely nothing, and justifying it to yourself by saying, “Who the hell cares?”
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10