Waking Life

Review Date:
Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Richard Linklater
Producers: Tommy Pallotta, Jonah Smith
Wiley Wiggins
Ethan Hawke
Julie Delpy
A guy walking around, trying to figure out if he’s dreaming or not, and if so, how to get out of it. In the meantime, he stumbles across many arm-chair philosophers, who decide to bore him, oops…I mean, relate to him, their own pontifications on life, etc…
This is not a movie. It’s someone else’s dream. And not only is it someone’s else dream, it’s someone else’s really annoying, boring, long-winded and overly-preachy dream. And yes, I will go for the easy putdown here and say that this man’s dream, turned into my living nightmare, folks. The last time that I felt like walking about of a theatre during a movie this much was with HAPPINESS. Granted, yes, the visuals are astonishing here, a pretty solid coup for animation, but who gives a shite when there’s no story to drive it?! I mean, this should have been a 5-minute short documentary or something. And what’s in it, you may ask? Well, it’s basically a bunch of talking heads, people sitting around, blathering on about life, existentialism, Nietche, matter, Plato, science, Kierkegaard, reincarnation, Albert Schweitzer, delivering quotes from books, discussing their own lame dreams and interpretations, and a whole bunch of other esoteric crap. About five minutes into this thing, I felt like I was watching a bunch of boring scientists spouting their own egocentric philosophies on life on PBS or something, and reached for my remote control, but to my sad realization, I remembered that I had actually paid to see this thing. So I remained in my seat a little longer, only to be taken back to my agonizing philosophy/sociology/anthropology college courses, during which some nitwit would ultimately take to the floor and discuss their so-called insights into the human condition. Once again, I started to drift off into my own lala-land, with little or no interest in anything that anyone had to recite in this movie. “Is this going anywhere,” I thought, “or am I asked to care about these bozos simply because I’ve paid to sit here?”

And talk about being clinical! Most of these chatterboxes wouldn’t even shut up or slow down for a second in order for me to even attempt to grasp their jargon-filled rhetoric about the meaning of life or the interpretations of dreams, bla-bla-bla. I’m not even sure if anyone is supposed to be able to keep up with these folks, or take it all to mean something “deep and insightful”, when really it’s just a bunch of psychobabble fluff disguised as pseudo-intellectual wisdom. Boooooooooooring! All of it, was just plain lame, and boring to me, as an individual. But did I just not “get it”? Not really. I consider myself to be a pretty smart cookie and the bottom line with me and this movie is that it just left me bored out of my skull. If I wanted to watch an intellectual discussion of meta-physics, existentialism and the meaning of life, I’d pick up a few expert books, watch some documentaries or interviews with actual connoisseurs. But watching some flaccid character’s supposed “dreams” filled with wordy quotes and interpretations from pretentious, overly-aware slackers, is not why I pay to go to the movies. But even as I say that, I could certainly see a certain niche of the populace loving this kind of garbage (yes, once again, an overwhelming amount of “real” movie critics love this film…which always reminds me of why I started this website in the first place).

To me, it’s a trippy exercise in animation, and in that regard, it succeeds somewhat, although if you’re prone to motion sickness, beware! And would smoking some heavy weed or dropping some acid bring you closer to the point of this whole movie? Definitely! In fact, writer/director Linklater himself was quoted as saying these words before the film’s premiere at Sundance: “How many of you out there are on drugs?” When a number of hands went up, he added, “Good. This is for you. The rest of you, just bear with me.” (Source: James Berardinelli) Does that mean that you have to be in an altered state in order to enjoy this thing? No, but I can definitely see this movie turning into another “cult classic” for the potheads around the world. Even I’m guilty of talking shit when I’m drunk off my ass with my buddies, but I certainly wouldn’t make a movie about it or expect others to give a rat’s ass! The theater in which I saw this flick had 10 people in it when it started, and by the time it was over, only 5 people survived. Unfortunately, I had to be one of them (since I publish my reviews on the Net, I think it’s only fair that I stay all the way until the end, as painful as it might be). Actually, I did like the one theory right near the end of the film by the character playing the pinball machine (which is apparently Linklater himself), but pretty much everything else in the movie was poppycock to me. So is this a recommendation or not? Well, to be honest, I really disliked this film and certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who thinks a lot like me, but if you read my entire review and are actually interested in sitting around with a ragtag bunch of bohemian coffee-drinkers who enjoy listening to each other rant on about a certain philosophy and attempting to decipher the answers to our universe while watching pretty “moving paintings” shift around before your blood-shot eyes…well, enjoy the trip, my friends. To everyone else, thank me for saving you money.

And why am I even giving this movie a 4/10? Well, to be honest, I always gotta give props to those who attempt to try something different in film (even if it fails miserably, like this thing) and I certainly admire Linklater for trying something unique. Also, the visuals are pretty incredible and I admittedly did find myself dreaming about a possible re-visiting of the film, but only under the influence of some massive doses of higher enlightenment. Picasso/Dali, you guys would’ve loved this shite!

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

Waking Life