Film Review – Slacker (1990)

Title – Slacker (1990)

Director – Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise)

Cast – Richard Linklater, Mark James, Jennifer Schaudies, Tommy Pallotta

Plot – A collection of short character examinations and interactions in the city of Austin over a 24 hour period.

“I may live badly, but at least I don’t have to *work* to do it”

Review by Eddie on 14/07/2020

One of the most influential independent films of all-time, shot for under $30,000 and featuring a cast of mainly non-professionals, Slacker marked the first entry into the what was soon to become the renowned filmography of director Richard Linklater.

A film that inspired the likes of Clerks and many other low-budget talk heavy exercises that appeared in its wake, this Austin set dramatic comedy, that follows a collection of mostly unnamed citizens across a 24 hour period, may not really be about anything in particular but as an always astute explorer of the human condition, Linklater manages to make his debut feature one that is filled with heart, soul and hearty laughs as we get a fly on the wall like experience as viewers.

Barely giving us more than a few minutes with each set of characters, Slacker moves at a reckless pace throughout as an eclectic array of Austinites (many of whom are famed citizens of the city) appear and disappear with the same fervor but still with enough time to explore many of the themes that would become staples of Linklater’s films to follow, from the Before trilogy, Dazed and Confused and Boyhood.

There’s no themes or moments that bind these characters together but from Linklater’s own bus hopping traveler, to a JFK assassination nut, through to a rather kindly old man who is happy to take a wannabe burglar for a nice chat and stroll, Slacker is filled with interesting “real” feeling people who are discussing everything from the mundane through to the profound as they make their respective ways through this thing we call life.

Narratively it’s the type of experience that is as deep or as shallow as you want it to be, working as both a funny slice of life tale or something deeper than that depending on your own situations or relatability to the people that make themselves apparent throughout the film but one thing that is hugely impressive regardless of your affection for the stories or people within the film is the way in which Linklater and his team managed to make such a proficient technical achievement on such a shoe-string budget.

Filmed mostly in long takes and often put together as if the camera never stops roaming the streets, surrounds and safe places of the city, Slacker showcased quite clearly to budding filmmakers of the era that all that was needed to make a good quality film was a refined script, some basic equipment and the will to make it work, with the expertly planned out staging of Slacker paying off in a big way.

Final Say – 

It may not appear as groundbreaking as it did upon release and there may not be takeaways of a lasting nature for viewers to hold onto but Slacker remains an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to the new age of cinema that emerged in the early 90’s and acts as a must watch for anyone that calls themselves a Linklater fan.

3 1/2 typewriters out of 5 

4 responses to “Film Review – Slacker (1990)

  1. This sounds great.

    Reading the description reminded me of a couple of This American Life episodes: both of which are recorded overnight in a diner or more recently over a convenience store during the protests

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