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Slacker: Portrait of a City

Mia Lancaster

Mar 16, 2023

Listen and learn through Austin’s stream of consciousness

Welcome to your new hometown: Austin, Texas. A pith of free-thinkers, eccentrics and misfits existing within, or perhaps against, a state of tradition and conformity. Taking a stroll through its streets, coffee shops and homes, one does not simply encounter the locals of this world, but instead is offered a profound exchange with their perspectives and opinions. While watching Richard Linklater’s 1991 gem, Slacker, one can certainly get the impression that Austin is a hub for beings and happenings of strangeness.  

In lieu of the conventional three act structure, Slacker functions by demonstrating its themes through an ongoing river of intersecting characters. There is essentially no (one) story in this film, but rather stories, unifying in a wholly beautiful sequence. I believe this is due to the fact that Linklater works from an autobiographical scope, compiling memories into a permanent imitation of life rather than a single contrived story. This factor, in conjunction with some exquisite casting, makes all these characters feel like pre-existing individuals with lore. As if we stepped into a world where everyone really spoke their mind when you ask them “What's up?”

From the point of creation through production, this film was never about a self-centered artistic pursuit of I and Me. The truth was that Austin’s independent artists had the full intention of giving birth to Linklaters first feature film, as a community. In fact, most of the crew members were responsible for multiple roles and were not experienced filmmakers or actors. However, from the lack of budget and craving to band together, the project became hyper-collaborative and communal. The result: a palpable viewing experience that makes it extremely clear to the viewer that everyone involved was an artist purely dedicated to the creation. Linklater himself became further immersed by playing our nameless opening character, who delivers a fascinating one-sided rant, pretty much preparing the audience for the rest of the film. 

Warning: Slacker is indeed a comprehensive listening exercise. Avoid watching this film with a chatty friend. 

The general consensus of what it means to be a slacker now is quite different from what this film portrays. Simply because these are characters getting out and engaging with life, a person viewing in 2023 would hesitate to accuse these characters of slacking. From (attempted) robbery to selling a Madonna pap smear, these slackers in contrast to our reserved, present landscape inspires one to realize just how much there is to connect with out there. In current society, one is not usually inclined to instantly share a series of JFK assassination theories with a stranger. Face to face, we are a reserved generation, more willing to share online through social media, or to a close friend. Slacker, however, demonstrates the value of connection and what lovely knowledge is to be gained from one another. Share with thy neighbor, for real!

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