Alright, Alright, Alright: The Oral History of Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused is a masterpiece of inspired writing, research, interviewing, and storytelling by Melissa Maerz.
But this book isn’t just about Dazed and Confused. It’s about the process of moviemaking, storytelling, corporate Hollywood, independent film, nostalgia, and art. It’s recommended reading for any creative person.
Sure, by now everyone knows Dazed and Confused as this big bang which launched many careers; Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Renee Zellweger, and many more. None of that was known during the filming, and since the movie didn’t do well at the box office, none of it could ever be insured.
But it did, and with hindsight, that makes Dazed and Confused as much of a cultural touchstone for 1992 as it was for the period it was set in: 1976. Maerz even covers this herself, stating, “One of the reasons people still love to watch Dazed and Confused is that it transports you back in time–not just to 1976, but also to 1992. You can return to the days when Ben Affleck still had baby fat and Parker Posey still smacked her gum. We get older. They stay the same age. The cast is forever preserved on-screen at a movement of infinite potential, one of the last moments before they’d have to start acting less like regular goofballs and more like movie stars.“
Beyond all of that, the story is not just in what happened after but how it happened at all. While there are a few missing voices, the book doesn’t suffer from those missing perspectives. Maerz spoke to absolutely everyone she could – not just those in and around the film, but also people who were inspired by it. Kevin Smith is quoted, along with Ethan Hawke, Steven Soderbergh, Jason Reitman, and more. Maerz leaves no stone unturned.
What’s conceptually amazing is that while the book may detail Richard Linklater’s reasons for wanting to create an anti-nostalgia film that turned into something opposite of that, the book really isn’t about the film. It’s about the same thing that the movie is about. It’s about youth and nostalgia. Even if you’ve been living under a rock for almost 20 years, none of the names sound familiar, or you’ve never seen the movie, you’ll still relate to the process of growing up, creating something, making decisions, chasing dreams, and the dreams deferred that occur against the backdrop of a cultural beacon.
I’ve mentioned a few of the names in this book, and if you know the film you are aware of most of the others. I won’t waste time naming names. Just know that if they were in Dazed and Confused or inspired by it or were merely anyone in the cast, there’s a good chance they’re represented.
For fans of the actual film, there are plenty of cool behind-the-scenes stories, but this book is so much more than just the sum of its parts. I suggest that you read it regardless of your thoughts on the movie that it surrounds. It’s just that good.