Judge Franck Tabouring is in a daze and can't remember anything.
Get ready for awesome --
-- not so much!
Facts of the Case
Jess Manafort's directorial debut Remember the Daze follows a bunch of high school kids gearing up to celebrate the last day of school before the summer. That's pretty much what the entire film is about, but if you prefer a little more detail, I'll gladly expand on the main story line. Set in 1999 suburbia, the film offers a brief insight into the lives of several high school juniors who only have one thing in mind: party hard and all night long. Stretching across a period of 24 hours, the plot follows its protagonists as they try to get ahold of booze, smoke pot, hook up with some friends, have sex, and yell at their parents. In short, they're just doing what they want.
First off, don't expect to see anything else in this flick besides what I just mentioned above. Although Remember the Daze is supposed to give viewers a deeper insight into the teenage wasteland at the turn of the millennium, the film ends up being pretty pointless because quite frankly, nothing happens. I mean, I agree that documentaries don't really need a scripted backstory if they intend to depict real life, but this is clearly not a documentary. On a slightly different note, even Gus Van Sant's Elephant, which spends most of the time just following students, ends up surprising its audience with an engrossing story. But that's exactly what's missing here. Although the film is watchable because Manafort chose to center on many characters at once, viewers are still exposed to too much of the same material. I personally prefer Larry Clark's flicks when it comes to portraying teenage wastelands, and although his plots are far more unrealistic and a lot tougher to swallow than this, they at least feature a story that manages to enthrall audiences. If I really want to observe a bunch of kids partying or behaving immaturely, I certainly don't need a TV or a DVD player. A trip to the mall usually does the trick.
I don't think I have too much of a naïve view on today's youth, and I know a lot of youngsters spend their days and nights drinking and smoking, but if the majority really started acting like some of the characters in this film, we'd probably have to build prisons in every neighborhood. Getting stoned and drunk as a high school junior is one thing, but smoking ten joints in five hours and still being able to drive around the neighborhood like nothing is wrong somehow seems a little too implausible to be true. That's also where the monotony of the film comes in. If you don't really have an engaging script, showing kids smoking, drinking, and flirting is interesting only once, and not repeatedly for 101 minutes. Other than that, some characters in Remember the Daze share some brief conversations about their future, try to resolve issues with their boyfriends of girlfriends, or start exploring sex. It's not exactly captivating material, but probably worth mentioning briefly.
Negative aspects aside, I do admit Manafort draws several portraits many kids in the real world can identify with. Even so, most of her characters are not interesting enough to feel sympathy for, and, despite their good looks, they really don't have much to offer. On the one hand you've got the stoners who run around school like they own the place, the divas who think they can do whatever they want, and the underage rebel who skips school everyday. Then there's also the shy guy who spends all his time taking photographs, the stereotypical cheerleader who's dating a jerk, those who plan to actually go to college, and the concerned parents who have no clue what's going on in the lives of their teenage kids. Anyway, I stop here, because if I went further into detail about who's who and who does what in the film, here would really nothing left for you to discover.
Before I move on to what actually saves this little film from disaster, here is a quick note about the actors. Some names will probably sound familiar, but others won't. Amber Heard not only has the looks, but she's also the only one delivering a decent performance. You'll also probably recognize Spy Kids star Alexa Vega, who stars as a middle-schooler looking for trouble. Other cast members are plain annoying, acting like complete retards every time they step in front of the camera. Some of them act a little too weird, even for stoned high-schoolers.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Besides a trailer and a couple of previews, the bonus material on this disc features an informative 11-minute behind-the-scenes look. Although I really didn't enjoy the feature film that much, this documentary offers an interesting look at what goes on behind the camera. Members of the cast and crew briefly explain what the film is about and how great the atmosphere was on the set, and fans of making-of featurettes will get a good opportunity to observe several technical aspects of the shooting.
The quality of the picture and the audio transfer on the DVD are stellar. The image is sharp throughout and the many musical pieces are well balanced with the dialogues. This also leads me to the film's positive technical aspects. Manafort's direction is top-notch and works perfectly with Steve Gainer's gorgeous cinematography, and even the soundtrack is quite exciting, offering a variety of groovy rock and alternative songs. Mixed together, these features definitely kept me from turning the whole thing off early.
Teens may have a great time watching other teens getting wasted, but I seriously doubt anyone older than 18 will appreciate this lazy daze. Stay in school, kids!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Look Pictures
• Behind the Scenes
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