There is no real plot; instead, we follow a bunch of different teenagers on May 28th 1976, the last day of school and the perfect night to party. There’s Randall “Pink” Floyd (Jason London), a football jock who doesn’t know if he’ll play again in the fall but is sure he won’t sign the coach’s stupid commitment contract stating that he wouldn’t drink alcohol or do drugs. He’s got a hot girlfriend (Joey Lauren Adams) and good friends like pothead Slater (Rory Cochrane), spaced out artist Michelle (Milla Jovovitch) and rowdy Pickford (Shawn Andrews). There’s also the school’s bullies, thick-headed seniors who are such losers they have to harass freshmen to convince themselves they’re the shit. The worst of them is O’Bannion (Ben Affleck), a mean jackass whose idea of fun involves spanking kids with a wooden paddle.
One of his victims is Mitch (Wiley Wiggins), for whom this is gonna be the first night of boozing, loving and loud music, as it will for Sabrina (Christin Hinojosa), who also suffered an humiliating initiation, conducted by that bitch Daria (Parker Posey). And then there’s Mike (Adam Goldberg) and his geeky friends who are pissed they’ve been missing out on the whole 70s debauchery and are looking to party before it’s too late.
That’s one of the interesting things in the film, how it takes the time to look at the unpopular kids as much as the cool dudes. The film was directed by Richard Linklater, a Texan independent filmmaker who’s not really out to make a big statement on teenage life, but who has a keen eye for insightful, clever and funny high school escapades. His movie is packed with hip dialogue about how “Gilligan’s Island” is a male sexual fantasy, how George Washington grew fields of marijuana and other “profound” themes, and I dig the 70s clothes and of course the killer soundtrack boasting the sounds of Kiss, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith, Peter Frampton and Foghat, among others.
The only quibble I have about the film is that, oddly, it’s like too laid back. You know, it just drifts around from one character to another, with no real story thread… It’s interesting, but it never seems to pay off, emotionally or thematically. And I would have liked for the characters to be more colorful, instead of just a bunch of random kids.
Well, there is one really memorable character even though he’s a bit pathetic. Played by the charismatic Matthew McConaughey, Wooderson is a fun-loving slacker in his twenties who still hangs around with high school kids: “That’s what I love about high school girls: I grow older, they stay the same age!”
And you gotta love a movie, flaws and all, that’s all about cars, bongs, hot girls, kegs, misdemeanors, rock and roll all night and party every day!