Slacker

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Slacker Movie Poster Image
Witty, wordy '90s indie has sex, cursing, violence.
  • R
  • 1991
  • 97 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

While many of the characters have lots of things to say, much of it's silly. As a whole, the movie seems to be saying that most 20-somethings are lost in life, though it offers no helpful ideas or solutions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Many of the characters appear to be thoughtful, creative, and educated, but they are also aimless, doing a lot of hanging around and expounding upon their personal theories and ideas without taking much action.

Violence

A woman lies in the street, apparently hit and run over by a car; some blood shown. A man tries to rob a bookstore with a gun; no shots fired. Violent acts and images verbally described, such as a man with a gun on the freeway, a stabbing, or the JFK assassination. Stealing car parts. Street Fighter video game shown.

Sex

Topless woman briefly shown on TV screen. A man and a woman in bed together, possibly after sex. Verbal mentions of sex. A woman tries to sell "Madonna's pap smear" with a "pubic hair."

Language

Many uses of "f--k," "s--t," plus uses of "a--hole," "ass," "bitch," "bastard," "t-t," "hell," "goddamn," "oh my God," "pubic hair," and "stupid." A woman tries to sell "Madonna's pap smear."

Consumerism

Various products named and shown, but always as background: Mr. Potato Head, Batman, Coke, Pepsi, Budweiser, Pop Tarts, Dunkin' Donuts, K-Mart, Dairy Queen, Subway, USA Today.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent cigarette smoking. Characters with beers. References to characters getting drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Slacker is a 1991 semi-experimental independent comedy and the breakthrough feature by Richard Linklater (School of Rock, Boyhood, etc.). Taking a snapshot of disaffected 20-somethings in Austin, Texas, it follows characters for only a brief time before focusing on new ones. It's talky, but weird and funny, and even though it's very much of its time, it could still inspire young artists. It contains a hit-and-run scene with a body lying in the street and some blood shown, as well as a bookstore holdup with a gun shown (not fired). Other violent events are described. A topless woman is briefly shown on a TV screen, and a couple is shown lying in bed together, possibly after sex. There's also some sex-related dialogue. Language is strong, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and much more. Characters smoke cigarettes fairly frequently, and there are references to beer drinking. Many brands are shown and/or mentioned but only in a background way.

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What's the story?

In SLACKER, a man (Richard Linklater) gets off the bus and hails a cab. He tells the driver about a dream he had involving alternate realities. He leaves the cab near the scene of an accident, and we follow another young man, who is eventually arrested for causing the accident. Two other young men pass near him, and we follow them. Over the course of the day, we meet several 20-something residents of Austin, Texas, most of whom have some kind of theory about the world and the way it works or should work. Most of them are artists of some kind and few hold jobs. There is a UFO conspiracist, a JFK assassination buff, an anarchist, a guy who collects television sets, a guy fixing his car, and a guy simply trying to read a paper. As the sun sets, bands play in clubs, and the conversations continue into the night.

Is it any good?

Funny and appealingly weird, this was the 1991 breakthrough feature by Richard Linklater (Boyhood), taking a clever, almost experimental approach to a snapshot of disaffected youth of the time. Actors appear and deliver dialogue that's either hilariously banal or hilariously detailed, and then disappear, never to be seen again, while someone in the background suddenly becomes the new main character. Each new character lasts only a few minutes, but the bigger picture is one of the most memorable movies about young people trying to find themselves. They are, for the most part, smart and idealistic, but are unable to figure out how to make all that work in the real world -- a mindset that is instantly identifiable to nearly any big-city college grad.

Linklater shot cheaply, with many long takes and relatively few cuts, and even a scene shot on a Fisher Price PixelVision camera. Some semi-famous musicians and artists were cast for the ultra-hip to identify. Slacker was a mini-phenomenon, highly influential in some circles, inspiring artists ranging from filmmaker Kevin Smith to the band R.E.M. Seen today, it looks pretty ragged, and, in truth, it looks a bit old, but not so much that some of today's disaffected youth wouldn't get something worthwhile out of it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Slacker's depictions of violence and sex. Are these things verbalized more than they're shown? How is the effect different, if at all?

  • How does the movie show smoking? Is it glamorized? Are there consequences? Does the movie's age matter?

  • How has the movie aged? Is it still relevant to a younger generation of viewers? Is it more like a classic or an artifact of another time?

  • How does the movie's experimental technique work? Does it allow you to care about characters? Is it interesting?

  • What is the movie's depiction of intelligence and education like? Does it make these things seem admirable? Are they portrayed in a negative way?

Movie details

For kids who love cult classics

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