★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but great characters are really what make a great film. Slacker is a perfect example of this concept. Why? Because it is essentially a plotless film with an ensemble cast that is really, really good.
Made on a $23,000 budget on 16mm, this was Richard Linklater’s (Dazed and Confused, Waking Life, Scanner Darkly) first well-received feature on a large scale. It was shot in and around Austin, Tx., and is largely just a series of vignettes centered around various 20-somethings. Some of the various characters include a man who has just run over his mother, a crazy old conspiracy theorist who assaults people verbally with his views, a JFK assassination enthusiast, some guys who work on cars all day long, a girl trying to sell Madonna’s pap smear, etc. It’s definitely a bizarre mix of characters, but the film manages to keep you intrigued throughout. Early musings on later concepts explored in Linklater’s Waking Life also seem to be taking root in this early film with several pontifications on dreams.
The direction is very straight forward with minimal cuts; this, most likely, is due to budget constraints. However, it works for the type of film being told. The story, though plotless, has extremely sharp dialog that, in my opinion, is what makes the movie so damn entertaining. A lot of the actors are obviously amateur, but bring a level of naturalism to the parts that really sell the roles. Even Linklater himself makes an appearance as the main character in one of the vignettes at the beginning of the movie.
I really enjoyed Slacker. It’s bizarre, comedic and witty, all elements of comedy that intrigue me the most in this genre of film.