the first in Trinity film review’S summer series: touching on all things summer, student, and coming of age cinema.
In this section, writers were asked to choose their favourite films in the “Slacker” genre, to appropriately coincide with the end of exams and the start of summer. Slacker movies are defined as focusing on the disenchanted generation that refused to buy into the prevalent society of America, and in doing so gave its name to a new way of life: slacking.
As a self-confessed music nerd, a slacker film that I have always related to on a personal level is Wayne’s World (1992). Based off a Saturday Night Live skit, Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) are your quintessential music-obsessed slackers. Wayne lives at home with his parents (which is “both bogus and sad”) and has a collection of hair nets and name tags from his previous employers. By all accounts, both Wayne and Garth should be losers, but due to their popular public access TV show, they are both cool and popular around Aurora, Illinois. When their TV show sparks the interest of producer Benjamin Kane, Wayne and Garth must fight against corporate greed to save their show. While Wayne’s World is a light-hearted, slacker film, it also provides a commentary on fighting commercialism. Rather than selling out and making lots of money with their successful TV show, Wayne and Garth would rather to continue making their show the way they want it, strung together with stupidly funny gags and anything and everything that interests them.
Being a big music lover is the main reason for my love and connection to this film. This film has inspired many moments of slacking off work and head banging to songs like Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Rather than worry about getting a job and other societal problems, Wayne and Garth choose to focus on praising rock stars that they are “not worthy” to be in the presence of. They live on a philosophy of focusing on what truly matters to them, not what everyone thinks they should focus on. And what an excellent philosophy that is.
If you think the objectively not-fantastic quality of Empire Records stops me from watching it at least once a year, then you are horribly mistaken. This movie manages to be a relatable young adult comedy at its very finest, while also being surreal, weird and over-the-top in the best ways possible (and that’s not even mentioning its soundtrack of devastatingly underrated 90’s tunes). The plot is cheesy, to say the least: teens work at cool record store, big uncool record store chain wants to take over, teens save cool record store and have party on roof. However, it’s not the plot itself that makes this film such a classic.
The main story takes a back seat to smaller scenes that show off the individual characters in funny, smart and sometimes beautiful ways. That last word can be applied to what is definitely my favourite scene, in which Deb (Robin Tunney) shaves her head to the appropriately titled Free by The Martinis after an apparent failed suicide attempt from the night before. Tunney’s acting skills are undeniable here, and the fact that it was filmed in one take, with the risk of her being bald for the whole movie and the scene being cut if it failed, makes it all the more impressive. In another scene, stoner Mark (Ethan Embry) hallucinates watching a videotape of himself onstage with shock rock band GWAR before getting eaten by a strange monster-thing. It results in a line that I really can’t not laugh at, no matter how hard I try: “Aw man, Mark, man, you play a mean guitar, man! It’s really a shame… that you must DIE!” The fact that these two scenes can exist in one film never ceases to amaze. If you’re up for experiencing a bit of 90’s throwback or some workplace shenanigans that you could only dream of having the time to carry out in your real-life retail job, definitely give Empire Records a watch.
The Big Lebowski
Since the emergence of the genre in the early 1990s, no slacker film has stood the test of time as well as the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski (1998). Its reception upon release was predominantly characterized by bemusement, but over the years it has gained a huge fan base and is now widely considered to be a cult classic. The film’s protagonist, Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski (played by Jeff Bridges), is the archetypal slacker figure. Unemployed and living in Los Angeles, he spends his time guzzling alcohol, indulging in illicit substances, and bowling with his equally apathetic friends.
Unfortunately, life often tends to hinder the pursuit of our more torpid desires, and slacking off from our duties is not always feasible. One minute, Jeff is clad in a bathrobe, downing white Russians and smoking a joint, and the next he is caught up in a ludicrous scenario that involves a case of mistaken identity, kidnap, pornographers, a briefcase filled with ransom money and a stained rug. The plot is as baffling as it sounds, but it is part of what makes the film so appealing. You are not required to make sense of what is happening, but to simply enjoy the chaotic journey that the film brings you on.
Moreover, it is the perfect film to watch if you are seeking procrastination material. As it is overflowing with hilarious gags, and punctuated with some brilliantly entertaining stoner dialogue, it allows you to simply relax and laugh along with the ridiculous antics of the Dude and his cronies. There is a reason that the religion of Dudeism, which functions to promote the philosophical ideal of “taking it easy”, was inspired by this film. As the man himself was keen to point out, the Dude abides. Inevitably, so does The Big Lebowski.