Slacker (1991)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Ensemble Film  |   Release Date - Jul 5, 1991 (USA)  |   Run Time - 100 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Dan Jardine

History may be written by the winners, but in movies like Slacker we learn that life's lovable losers often have a far more engaging story to tell. The spiritual anomie afflicting the generation of the then-29-year-old director Richard Linklater provides the backdrop for this meandering and essentially plot-less tale. These college-aged people in Austin, Texas have the freedom and resources to do just about anything, but they choose instead to do nothing. There is a morbid attractiveness to their subversiveness. In most cases, their non-participation in life is a well thought-out stance: "Withdrawing in disgust is not the same thing as apathy," as one of the slackers informs us. Like others before them (beatniks, hippies, punks), this generation of twenty-somethings need time to sort things out. The movie's titular characters represent America's subconscious; these are the midnight neuroses that we keep bottled up in our waking hours. Comparisons to such filmmakers as Luis Bunuel and Max Ophuls are apt, as Linklater's stream of consciousness direction follows a winding road that leads to no particular place at all. Ironically, this studied attempt to appear unscripted and spontaneous succeeds mainly because it is so carefully plotted. Thankfully, Linklater clearly identifies with his subjects, and celebrates their wackiness without resorting to a bitterly ironic pose that would have distanced us from the characters. The film's 97 minutes -- made for $23,000 -- provided more filmmaking bang for the buck than just about any film of the early 1990s; Slacker's no-budget breakthrough success prefigured other Sundance discoveries such as Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi (1992) and Kevin Smith's Clerks (1994).