Dazed and Confused (1993) Ending Explained – A love letter to youth

Dazed and Confused Plot Synopsis

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Dazed and Confused. Richard Linklater’s hangout film  takes place in a small town in Texas on the last day of school for all the teenagers in both the towns high school and junior high in 1976.

The film has no overarching dramatic plot; things come along and then they pass during the run time. It’s a a little uncanny, we get emotionally invested in pretty much every character in the film, and yet nothing much happens to them! However, once we fade to black we never want to leave them.

When does Dazed and Confused take place?

Dazed and Confused takes place on the last day of school in a Texan town in 1976. The film begins with us hanging out with a batch of high schoolers. Although there doesn’t seem to be much of a main character in it, we do focus heavily on Randall. Randall is a junior who is on the fence about signing a contract that prohibits drinking and marijuana use if he was going to play football in the fall. 

Randall is a good jumping off point for following a long with the happenings of the movie as he somewhat interacts with and is friends with just about everyone. He has a main core group of jock friends, who run the school and get away with skipping class. However, he also hangs out with those you would label as the soft spoken nerds of the school. 

What happens after school gets out?

When the bell rings, a lot of the high schools older kids rush over to the junior high school to perform the act of hazing. The boys track down soon to be freshman and give them licks with a spanking paddle. A lot of these are complimentary of the character Fred O’Bannion played by a young actor at the time named Ben Affleck.

The girls however, do things more formal and line up the soon-to-be freshman and give them pacifiers and dump powder and cake mix on them. And then they hop into the bed of a truck and are driven through a car wash.

Who does Matthew McConaughey play?

McConaughey was just kind of getting on as an actor in 1993. He plays a Texas native who shines in the film as the cool older guy who still hangs out with high schoolers, David Wooderson. As day turns to night, David arrives into the hangout scene of the characters night.

His ideology of just “living, man” seems to hit a chord with most of these characters. In some circles, David is a character who would be made fun of and looked at as a guy with no friends his age. However, every town has the cool older guy who still hangs around people a few years younger than he is. 

Wooderson preaches about having a beer bust later in the night, meaning a keg party out in the woods away from police. He also mentions going to get Aerosmith tickets in the morning after a night of partying – two things that come full circle in the last fifteen minutes of the film. 

How Does Dazed and Confused end?

A party out in the woods ensues as planned. Wooderson gets the kegs and all parties who have been in the know of what’s going on make their way out to a massive party full of fights, making out, and keg stands. The party never gets busted by the cops. The beer runs out and people either go get some breakfast, or head home.

Randall, David, Don, Slater, Simone and Shavonne all end up at the fifty year line back at the schools athletic field for a joint. It is here some loose ends are tied up. The group reflects on their time in high school and all the freedom that they’ve had for many years.

What is the message in Dazed and Confused?

Despite there being no overarching plot to this film, there is still a lot of deep meaningful messages being conveyed to the audience in Dazed and Confused. A lot of people talk about the nostalgia of the movie.

Dazed and Confused was released in 1993, but takes place 17 years earlier. Most people that have discovered the film recently have no emotional connection to that time period and yet they long for something with it. 

It’s not necessarily nostalgia for the time, but nostalgia for the feeling. Teen angst has never been on a more full display here. The yearning for freedom in life is seen mainly through Randall’s obsession of wanting to break free from the town. He’s tired of the pressure of having to work hard to achieve something at such a young age, and he’d rather just kind of go with the flow and not have to deal with restrictions.

Dazed and Confused is a love letter to youth and the freedom of it, even that freedom is an illusion.

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