ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT: The Oral History of Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused by Melissa Maerz
Review by Lee Sobel (12/2/20)
5 out of 5 stars
Calling Richard Linklater's 1993 landmark movie Dazed and Confused "a stoner comedy" is like calling Star Wars "a robot movie" -- yeah kids got stoned in the 1970s but the movie is one of the best coming-of-age flicks ever made. It perfectly captures the time when teenagers are hopped up on their own hormones, trying to figure out how to make that transition from being a kid to...what? Being a grown-up? Nah, not yet -- ya gotta get some kicks while you're still young. Like Kevin Smith's Clerks, Dazed and Confused is loaded with a ton of memorable lines (one of which is the title of this book), great characters that you feel you knew when you went to high school, and a soundtrack that had me realizing (like a number of Quentin Tarantino's movies), "Hey, rock music in the 1970s didn't suck as much as I thought it did!"
This is author Melissa Maerz's first book and I expect to see her write many more as this is a thoroughly impressive debut. She interviewed everyone under the sun who has had even the most remote connection to the movie, including kids the director grew up with who vouch for how much the movie is based on their real lives, crew people from Linklater's first movie Slacker, and every actor and extra that appeared in the movie, save for two actors who chose not to be interviewed -- one of whom is pretty much ripped to shreds by everyone in the book because he was apparently an arrogant douche bag during production (and because of his behavior his role was cut down too).
There's plenty of controversy here. Okay, maybe controversy is too strong a word but the director has a mountain of complaints about the way he was treated and what "the powers that be" tried to do to his movie. Given the chance to make his first studio movie as director, Richard Linklater found himself having to fight for the integrity of his vision with the studio and his own producers every step of the way which included allowing his cast to improvise and bring their own ideas about their characters and dialogue to the film. He also admits that some things he tried didn't work and scenes where characters talked about more serious things got cut from the movie.
The casting of the movie is inarguably one of the best movie casts ever and it's amazing how many people from this movie became huge stars but equally startling for the actors who are so good in this movie whose careers never really ignited as one would have expected. The story of how Matthew McConaughey went from a local Texas nobody who was in the right place at the right time and was cast in a small part but because of the director's openness, McConaughey turned his part into a breakout role, is the best "make it big" story since Lana Turner was discovered at Schwab's Drug Store. Anyone who loved this movie will enjoy hearing about all the stuff that went on behind the scenes. I'd gladly give this 10 out of 5 stars but then you might think I was stoned or something so I give it a perfect 5 out of 5.
Get this book -- it'd be a lot cooler if you did.