The story of Dazed And Confused has been told before, but never with the depth, breadth, or remarkable reproduction of the film’s conversational rhythms found in Melissa Maerz’s new oral history ... Like Linklater’s depiction of the last day of school circa 1976, Maerz’s book envelops readers in time and place. But while the movie’s more of a snapshot, Alright, Alright, Alright is a panorama, enriched by deep background on the high school experiences and classmates that shaped the film (including the ones who later sued for defamation) and an oral-history-within-the-oral-history about Linklater’s debut feature, Slacker. It’s a class reunion that doesn’t suck, attended by almost all of the living principals, whose stories provide a chance to vicariously attend both the onscreen party at the moon tower and its real-life equivalents at the downtown Austin hotel the cast commandeered for the length of the shoot.
This is a spoken, as-told-to memoir of (mostly) everyone who was involved in the making of Linklater’s 1993 follow-up to Slacker. A loose, hormonal slice of ’70s Texas teenage life that’s become a modern coming-of-age classic ... There are hookups and rivalries, oceans of alcohol and forests of weed consumed, cliques and alliances — and everyone has their own side of the story. And everyone, of course, insists they’re telling the truth. It makes for lively, sometimes cringe-y reading (the chapter about Shawn Andrews should be printed as a pamphlet and handed out to young actors with too much hubris). It’s gossipy and funny and sometimes wistful and sad, but it’s page-turning. Yes, you find out precisely where Alright, alright, alright comes from. And in true, Linklater-esque meandering fashion, you find out about odd Texas traditions like moon towers, 'freshmanizing' and the parking spots to avoid at the Sonic ... For a film lover like me, Alright, Alright, Alright is an endless feast of facts and revelations. I’m gonna guess that for the casual filmgoer (and even someone who’s never seen Dazed and Confused) it will be fascinating just for the thrill of reading older people looking back with joy, bewilderment and sometimes anger at a time when they were not only young, but when their youth blazed. And the fire was caught on film. For better or worse, forever.
The book’s prime appeal is its font of anecdotes ... Along the way, it effectively illuminates the sources of D&C’s charms and shortcomings, both for devotees and for skeptics like its director and me. Maerz serves more as choir arranger than critic here, but she wisely highlights certain themes, and a chief one is nostalgia ... In that interest, Dazed and Confused was fortunate in its director, who brought with him the collaborative ethos of Slacker and encouraged his young stars to help shape the material, partly based on the developing off-screen relationships that Maerz juicily describes.