Quick recap: There is really nothing to recap, seeing as how this movie has no plot. Instead, the focus is on Austin, Texas and all its eccentricities. This movie is ‘Keep Austin Weird’ before there was ‘Keep Austin Weird’.
Fun (?) Fact: This was the film that inspired Kevin Smith to direct ‘Clerks’.
My thoughts: As any sane person would do, I groaned as loudly as I possibly could when realizing I would be watching a plotless movie. And even worse, a plotless movie set in Austin. I don’t hate anything about Austin, but I do hate when directors make assumptions about Texas. I felt like this would be two hours of my life that I would never get back.
The movie opens with the director, Richard Linklater, in a taxi cab discussing his thoughts on alternate realities. What immediately drew me in was the accent. It’s hard to describe, but a Texas accent, especially a Central Texas accent, is very different from a regular southern accent. If you don’t listen carefully it might sound accent-less, but there is just the very hint of a twang at the end of a word in a sentence. I’m not even sure most people would pick it up, but the tiny detail let me know that I was dealing with someone who was quite intimate with the Lone Star State. It also made me wonder if people in other parts of the real world would really appreciate this movie as much as someone who has frequented Austin many, many times. It reminded me of another Texas-centric movie- Bernie. That movie centers around the real life East Texas town of Carthage. There were so many details in that movie that only a native Texan would pick up on. When looking up information about Slacker, I realized that both movies are directed by Linklater, who is of course, from Texas and still lives here.
There are many reasons that this movie is special, but the main one is how perfectly it captures the town. As far back as I can recall, Austin has been known for its weirdness. It exists almost as a separate entity from the rest of Texas. People pride themselves not just on their weirdness, but on their welcoming nature. Most of the conversations in the film are one sided, with one person spouting a conspiracy theory or philosophy of life. The listener in the scenario is at best trying to learn something and at worse, merely polite. I especially loved the scene halfway through the movie where a JFK assassination conspiracy theorist attempts to make small talk with a girl. It is evident that this guy breathes conspiracy and he even wears a shirt with a picture depicting the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. In the beginning, he tries to engage the girl, asking her about a class they took together at some point, but then he just can’t contain his excitement anymore and starts to lay out the case for his theory. She finally is able to leave the conversation, but does so in a way as to not make the guy feel embarrassed. He can continue delving into his passion without any fear.
Even now, although there have been efforts to improve the situation, its hard to walk down any street in Austin and not be accosted by at least one homeless person. It can be annoying after awhile, especially having had too much to drink on 6th street, but in the daylight, it almost becomes an adventure. It’s definitely not for everyone, but in talking to the people who are ‘out there’, you are truly embracing the spirit of the city. I guess that’s why it was so disheartening when I traveled there a couple of years ago, prepared to encounter all sorts of people. Instead, all I could see were tourists. In many ways, the city has let the secret out and everyone is flocking to see it themselves. It’s exciting to see all of the new bars and and restaurants popping up, but makes me wonder if they are there to ‘Keep Austin Weird’ or to satisfy the needs of visitors. I loved watching a time in Austin’s history when it was just a big ball of crazy and everyone was out to find themselves.
Getting back to the idea that this movie is plotless, Linklater is still able to tell a story. It becomes a story of a place and not about people, but still a story. He also manages to weave all of the characters together in some way, which I loved. One person talks to another, and then that person walks off and you see his story. And then whoever this person passes becomes the next story. It really showcased how even though Austin is a city, it’s also a tight-knit community of misfits.
Final review: 5/5. If there is one thing Texans love, it’s being represented accurately. I don’t really care if the rest of the world watches Slacker or not, but it should be required viewing for everyone living in Austin.
Up next: Psycho. Finally.