Brief summary (from Wikipedia) with slight additions by me:

“Set in the suburban neighborhood of “Burnfield” in Austin, Texas, five young adults are in the nightly habit of hanging out by a garbage dumpster on the corner of a local convenience store, occasionally taunting the foreign clerk, Nazeer Choudhury, who works there. The film’s main character, Jeff, is an aimless soul unsure of his future. Jeff is dating Sooze, a feminist who has expressed the desire to leave Burnfield and become an artist in New York. Jeff’s best friends are Buff and Tim, a troubled, young, honorably- discharged military man who drinks too much and has a knack for shooting his mouth off (and lying a lot). Sooze’s friend Bee Bee is a recovering alcoholic who is invited to join the group.

One evening, an old friend of theirs, Pony, now a rock star, shows up looking to reconnect with them. The girls and Buff are glad to see him, although Jeff and Tim are bitter and jealous of his recent success. Through actions and conversations, they all contemplate what they want to do with the rest of their lives.”

And now, my personal take….

Damn, this shit is brilliant. This is without a doubt, Richard Linklater’s least-known film. His best-known works are Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Waking Life (superb films, if you haven’t seen any of them). Occasionally, Linklater directs stuff that other people have written, such as Tape (2001), and SubUrbia (written by Eric Bogosian, who played the Howard Stern-like disc jockey in the 1988 film Talk Radio). I think Bogosian’s script might have captured suburban life better than any film before or after.

I grew up in Cape Coral / Fort Myers, Florida, from 1988 until 1999, and then after a brief life in California, I moved back to Cape Coral, Florida in 2000, and left again in late 2004. I was 12 to 23, most of my life, there. Then, 24 to 28.

Although I didn’t have a tight-knit group of friends, like in this film, I can relate fully to the boredom, decision-postponing, and ultimate sense-of-dread and “nothing” that this film implies and shows, through the laziness (and craziness) of all the characters (except for Pony).

Every character feels like people I’ve known or been, at least at one point in my life:

Bee Bee (Dina Spybey) – the lonely, pretty girl with a drinking problem, trying to fit in anywhere, and can’t seem to
Jeff (Giovannia Ribisi) – the talented, but lazy/jaded guy, looking for any answers that make any sort of sense
Sooze (Amie Carey) – the passionate feminist, full of creativity and energy (and heavy opinions), and support for her friends… cute, edgy, great sense of style
Tim (Nicky Katt) – the most jaded of all… lots of potential, but squandered at the bottom of a bottle
Buff (Steve Zahn) – the total, utter goofball… drunk and high every minute of the day (at least when he’s not at work).
Pony (Jayce Bartok) – the passionate singer-songwriter who “done good”, making a living doing what he always spent most of his time doing. A guy with a good heart, but keeps his defenses up (and has to, to maintain some sort of professional life)
Nazeer (Ajay Naidu) – the foreign convenience store clerk, just trying to keep the peace and keep the group from loitering in his parking lot
Erica (Parker Posey) – Pony’s manager, who is immensely entertained by Pony’s old friends (and specifically, Buff).

It’s just such a great portrayal of suburban life, and suburban potential, that is often never harnessed.

Do not sleep on this film. It’s hard to find on DVD and Blu-Ray (I don’t think it’s been released, yet) but you can find it on cable sometimes, and Netflix. Also, you can easily find the VHS used on ebay for a few bucks. Worth your time, believe me.

-Chris Caulder

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