Film Review: Slacker

Posted: June 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

1991 directed by Richard Linklater

I’m proud today to have gotten a good writeup on Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective from The Austin Post. I have heard nothing but cool things about the town that’s the home to The Alamo Drafthouse, Tobe Hooper and Robert Rodriguez. So, I felt tonight like watching a movie that’s quintessentially Austin and one that embodies the weird, creative spirit of the Bizarro fiction and Bizarro fan communities. Tonight, I’m going to talk about Richard Linklater’s awesome masterpiece Slacker.

The film is free associative, collaborative, chaotic, but coherent. It’s about choices, energy, intellect and guerilla art. It begins with a young man (Linklater himself) talking about the alternate realities made by our choices as a distinterested cabbie gives him a ride. His monologue is intellectually masturbatory, silly and somehow still contains weird nuggets of wisdom. It introduces a character revealed through a multitude of other archetypes, the slacker, the young person with no job, no ambition in the traditional sense of the world, but a little something else, something that makes them charming, sympathetic and maybe worth rooting for.

The film goes from slacker to slacker, weirdo to weirdo, there are moments of genuine horror, genuine disgust and genuine triumph in this cobbled but organic Frankenfilm. A woman gets hit by a car. Her son burns pictures of her, then gets arrested for her murder. The slacker goes from a wise fool to a disturbed sociopath. A slacker “author” discusses the impossibility of creating. A friend of this slacker’s is accosted by another of society’s outcasts, a conspiracy theorist discussing aliens. The slacker is a passive witness.

The conspiracy theorist is a fantastic actor. The monologue is hilarious. The next couple scenes lag in my opinion, but you know watching this that the movie will pick you up again. But then, maybe those sketches will move you. Different people respond more to different parts of the mosaic that will ring truer, bring more truth. That’s the road you choose to take into the movie. You might not find the Madonna pap smear funny or the story it’s bearer has to tell about an old man going postal on the freeway, or you might find it a truthful and poignant look at our culture of celebrity fetishization. Is it bullshit or is it all they can do?

There’s another great conspiracy theorist scene involving a JFK assassination fanatic and the poor  girl he corners in a bookstore. If you’ve ever been accosted in a bookstore by a guy with a pet theory on a conspiracy, this will ring true and make you laugh your ass off. Even if you have an inkling of what this would feel like, it will be a funny experience. Especially since most of these know it alls tend to have a book that’s too good to actually write. Laughter and cruel poetry abound in this movie, at times making you wonder about the fate of this generation and future ones.

My favorite scenes in Slacker involve a character called the Old Anarchist. The Old Anarchist is charming, funny, cool and antisocial. You can’t help but love this character, a guy who heartily approves of the young man breaking into his house and has a lengthy conversation about antiestablishment activity and how Szolgoscz and  Charles Whitman are heroes. It might seem a little crass, but it’s played perfectly and is truly endearing. The system has failed all the characters, or at least they believe it has, so what options are there? Slacker is strangely postapocalyptic, a film set after the shit has really gone down.

This might be chilling if this is the path you choose to tread in Slacker. Is this your particular “oblique strategy” as the film calls it? Is this a revelation or bullshit? Who knows? Life is complicated. The movie is complicated. Our choices are complicated. It can be inspiring or depressing, full of people you feel like patronizing or people you feel patronized by. I’ve been liking more of these guys than ever. Tonight, this movie makes me feel hopeful and grateful to Austin and grateful for my Bizarro colleagues and maybe I don’t feel so bad about not having a dayjob. One of my favorite films tonight, one of my favorite films always.





  1. Txjack says:

    Congrats on your nice review. I received my copy of Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective and am looking forward to reading it. All I have to do is get finished with my other projects first!

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