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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 17.36%
Average: 1.39%
Pretty Bad: 15.97%
Total Crap: 25%

7 reviews, 102 user ratings

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Waking Life
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Wow indeed."
5 stars

After a large and fortunately forgettable misstep (1998's "The Newton Boys"), Richard Linklater is back in fine form -- maybe the finest yet. The inquisitive and phantasmagoric "Waking Life" is linked with Linklater's 1991 debut "Slacker" in that it takes the viewer on an adventure of ideas and words.

What's new here is the pulsating look of the film; Linklater shot the movie live-action, on digital video, and then handed it to animator Bob Sabiston, whose shifting tones and textures give the actors the appearance of (mostly) benevolent ghosts of the mind.

Read simply, the plot would seem to concern an unnamed young man (played by Wiley Wiggins, who was Linklater's surrogate in the director's 1993 nostalgia trip Dazed and Confused) who isn't sure whether he's dreaming or not. He moves from place to place, from person to person, and hears a wide variety of concepts mostly having to do with being and perception. Some of the talk is sort of academic and dry; other talk strikes you as the kind of enthusiastic gush you overhear at coffeehouses. (Sabiston's visual commentary sometimes prankishly works against the philosophizing -- your eye is drawn to a little figure in the background and you lose the thread of what the speaker is saying, which in one or two cases may be for the best. It may be intentional, or it may not.)

It's significant that the people in Waking Life aren't just talking about banal, externalized topics, though, because Linklater means us to see them all as people who live in their own heads. It's debatable whether they're all just living in the main character's head -- forgotten voices from different places in his brain, unlocked by REM sleep. Linklater, whose specialty is drama in miniature (Before Sunrise, his romantic comedy from 1995, featured only two people), may have pulled off his most audacious stunt yet: despite the many characters, it could be argued that there is only one character here -- Richard Linklater. The movie can be taken and enjoyed as his dream, his invitation to us to climb into his head for 99 minutes and see what's happening in there.

Which is as good a definition of art as any. The experiment is successful; leaving the theater, you may wish for a light switch to flick on and off (one character cites the act as a foolproof way to tell if you're dreaming or not), and at certain points during the movie you may -- if you're like me, anyway -- get that scary but exhilarating floating sensation you sometimes get during lengthy philosophical chats, as if you'd just left your physical self for a moment and connected with some mass shared consciousness. Forgive me; the movie inspires such daffy thoughts, and many more. Linklater bombards you with other people's answers, hoping that they'll dislodge some of your own or strengthen them; Waking Life, if nothing else, is a heroic act of intellectual love married to the greatest eye candy in years.

Would we want a steady diet of movies that look and sound like this? Of course not; part of what makes this experience so noteworthy is its rarity, and I'd rather see this movie inspire other directors to make comparably adventurous films than to make copies of it. (Linklater, who has never really had a mainstream hit, has escaped the horror of wannabe Dazed and Confused or Before Sunrise ripoffs.)

A true independent film that uses animation techniques to their utmost, "Waking Life" is off in its own world, off in its own head; but Linklater, unlike other artists who arrogantly don't care whether you connect with their work, cares less about whether you connect with his movie than about whether the movie leads you to connect with the world. Or at least to connect with your dreams. By movie's end, you might ask what the difference is.

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originally posted: 12/28/06 09:42:27
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User Comments

7/13/09 Roland this is a great movie not for everybody but i love it. 5 stars
6/03/09 Jinxed Cheese I disagreed with the film many times but I can't say it wasn't interesting. Poetic ideas. 4 stars
9/21/08 Man Out 6 Bucks The real joke is physics is ruled by the mind, but many minds decide to be ruled by physics 4 stars
5/29/08 vicky It was truly great, with philosophycal discussion 5 stars
4/07/08 Anonymous A tiresome, pseudodocumentary whose only moderately redeeming value is its visual style 1 stars
12/04/07 Angel Waking Life was excellent. i think some ppl just dont know what art is. 5 stars
11/01/07 Total Crap Philosophy and acid trips. What if death is an everlasting dream? Strange, but worth a look 4 stars
10/21/07 Andrew Bizzare and Trite while simultaneously captivating thought provoking. 4 stars
9/16/07 Derek Anderson duuuuhhhhh me sooo stoopid 2 stars
7/21/07 Bitchflaps Irretrievably lodged up its own fundament, but there are some fun ideas here. 2 stars
7/04/07 Max M I had to stop this after 20 mins. The pretentiousness was unbearable. 2 stars
6/14/07 pat mustard will please pretentious types who think they are above others. fun & well made though 4 stars
6/12/07 Geo Fernandes for the unimagionative, it will quickly get boring. sorry stupid, no explosions. 5 stars
6/03/07 scutter28 i dont understand what thr big deal is. meaning to life? work/pay bills/put up with crap!!! 2 stars
5/28/07 Glenn Truly awesome, and a slight introducer to Lucid Dreaming as well, can't get any better. 5 stars
5/25/07 fools♫gold Everyone speaks the same things, and everyone's a hypocrite. But people grow. 5 stars
5/15/07 Hate hate hate hated hated this film Only made it through first half hour - so awful - like a bad day at the coffee shop 1 stars
5/01/07 Cor Tonsoris Awful. Had a devoted philosophy class struggling to maintain consciousness within 20 mins. 1 stars
3/16/07 obese beats this review was ponderously your mind android 5 stars
2/02/07 X Way to miss the entire point of the movie you dipshit. 5 stars
1/23/07 thekidyoupickedon so parts were belabored...who cares? the MUSIC...the SOUL...only the arrogant stay annoyed 5 stars
1/23/07 sdf the movie is deff only for smart ppl 1 stars
11/04/06 Matt a movie to make stupid people feel smart. 1 stars
10/02/06 GnarMilla this movie can make an open minded person curiously content. look too hard and your done 4 4 stars
9/26/06 w not everybody needs to love it, it's actually a pretty nice experience if you get into it 5 stars
7/13/06 Agent Sands The most arrogant movie I've ever seen. In every way. Really. 3 stars
5/02/06 Dane Angotti So talk about things that suck....Waking Iife is among the firsts things that comes to mind 1 stars
2/28/06 sarah a good film to refresh our motives, look away from catagorizing this movie. 4 stars
12/15/05 Thom B Never been so captivated! Occasionally irritating, but flows so soothly. Very funny, too. 5 stars
12/02/05 Adam Good film should be an EXPERIENCE, as this definitly is. 5 stars
10/13/05 K. Sear Super pretentious but entertaining never the less. 4 stars
8/08/05 yuko i loved it! 5 stars
3/28/05 indrid cold The definition of "worth a look" while not really being great by any standard. 4 stars
3/06/05 Josh Bizarre, trippy, intelligent, banal, tedious, mesmerizing, brilliant, visually amazing! 4 stars
2/09/05 Dr Hock existential euphoria- film, not a movie. 5 stars
12/10/04 jeff there is a plot idiot : the guy died, he's getting prepared for the other world, its amazin 5 stars
12/09/04 bigdick suck balls 5 stars
10/11/04 Jen this movie gives u a great insight on philosiphical terms 4 stars
9/01/04 drfardook a pathetic ripoff of linklater's own film. slacker didn't need to be remade. 1 stars
8/08/04 robby if you didn't like this movie, stop having sex. we do not need your type to breed anymore. 5 stars
6/04/04 MyGreenBed Despite being more visually arresting, it was better the first time "Slacker". 2 stars
5/20/04 FLB All the characters and their philosophical ramblings were truly irratating 1 stars
4/24/04 star overwhelming at first 5 stars
4/14/04 Zach This film isn't for everyone, it's a very individual film. Highly reccomended. 5 stars
2/17/04 Mauricio Vaca Amazing 5 stars
11/01/03 Ingo A must. To be seen more then once. 5 stars
10/15/03 Suzanne Vogt amazing 5 stars
10/01/03 Me Contradictory to the title, it was yawn-inducing 2 stars
8/31/03 Arch-vile I wanna drive and spend all day in coffee bars quoting philosophers at random too, cool! 1 stars
8/27/03 Tristan Superb medely of perspective driven conversation 5 stars
4/12/03 John Pure drek. Fore pseudo-intellectuals only! 2 stars
4/08/03 James Bull Only people that use their brains will understand this movie. Simply brilliant! 5 stars
3/11/03 .Choadushouse. Most visually amazing & confusing thing I've ever seen. Plot can be boring, but INTERESTING 4 stars
1/30/03 pomba even if disagree w/ back &forth rambling (it's a dream) it's beautiful 4 stars
1/21/03 Wake up Wow, this reivew is one of the worst. Guess you only like dumbed down hollywood crap. 5 stars
12/25/02 elroy Beautiful. But you have to actually know the truth to appreciate this film. 5 stars
12/22/02 Monster W. Kung Great visual impact, poor story with a lot of tired wannabe-philosophical mumbo-jumbo. 2 stars
12/11/02 jmyles I can see how you wouldn't like this. If you can't fucking think. Without drugs, too. 5 stars
10/09/02 Peter Lovisek many boring parts, but many very interesting things too 3 stars
9/21/02 Kelly Painfully tedious rambilings 1 stars
9/19/02 Cuisinarthatrack how can a movie with an obtuse point inflict so much damage? ExquisiteExcruciatingBoredo 1 stars
8/03/02 Dr. Fardook All the overblown bullshit of a college lunchroom after philosophy 101 gets out 1 stars
7/08/02 zeitgeist "Slacker" with a brain 5 stars
7/02/02 Phil M. Aficionado A weird excursion into psycobabble and mind-bending contradictions. Alas, little substance 2 stars
5/26/02 ssvenn Well-animated and intelligent 5 stars
5/22/02 officer 412/l a big puddle of wank fluid 1 stars
5/20/02 The Bomb 69 animation was great, story was ??????????? 1 stars
5/15/02 SIGB I guess you need some brains to enjoy this movie... but it's also an awesome piece of art. 5 stars
5/15/02 RobMur Excellent! 5 stars
5/10/02 spyguy2 Loved it. Ambitious attempt to cause the viewer to question their world perspective. 5 stars
4/26/02 ^Elendil^ A hit and miss affair. 4 stars
4/23/02 Danielle Ophelia Different. Experimental. A few hiccups pertaining to incidentals, but nowhere near vile. 4 stars
4/07/02 natasha art in motion 5 stars
4/01/02 Elsie Dee It's about time someone made a movie like this! More, please... 5 stars
3/07/02 ZenMasterFlash Fine if you enjoy listening to pretentious college students vomit up their philosophy texts 1 stars
2/21/02 luda hoe it's different, for those of you who said it sucked all ass, you suck all ass 4 stars
1/24/02 Paco Pedantic and boring. Go find some stoned college students instead 1 stars
1/15/02 Clive Hampton Like being beaten over the head with a 1st year psychology textbook. Basic and boring. 2 stars
12/30/01 sarafina Its sad that people are so close minded 5 stars
12/22/01 emiliano visually, intellectually, and conceptually stimulating 5 stars
12/15/01 Mr Math Painful. Pretty, but then... so is Gretchen Mol. That don't make a movie. 1 stars
12/13/01 M. Brenna Great experimental flick. Lighten up, assholes. 5 stars
12/12/01 Anne Donaldson ouch 1 stars
12/06/01 Timothy R. Britt, Fellow of American Film Institute Warning: Intellect required to enjoy this film. If you are a dumb-ass please do not watch. 5 stars
12/04/01 hexenhaus Sucked the ass of the ass! Sophmoric pilosophy combined with gimmick "animation" horror 1 stars
12/04/01 David Blanton mesmerizing, creative road trip into the soul 5 stars
12/04/01 slappy jacks YOU must BE A DREAMER TO ENJOY IT! 4 stars
12/02/01 Chris Mandel Best movie I'v encountered since 'The Wall' 5 stars
11/15/01 john bedolla pretntious, boring, empty, devoid of an animating principle 1 stars
11/13/01 liz i was quite impressed -- full review at 4 stars
11/12/01 Mr. Shmegma In 20 years everyone is going to claimed they loved it, too. 5 stars
11/11/01 John If you've ever spent a little too much time thinking about life, this is the movie for you. 5 stars
11/10/01 Artist Freak This movie was incredible. Every shot, every word. If you don't like it go watch Titanic... 5 stars
11/10/01 daniboy pretencious and boring (great animation though) 2 stars
11/08/01 The Alter Ego Except for the art direction, this movie truly does suck all ass. 1 stars
11/05/01 Kevin Kraus Requires concentration... but worth the effort. Fantastic amination. 5 stars
11/03/01 Paco I could've just gotten a philosophy student drunk. It would've been the same thing. 1 stars
10/23/01 Movie Freak I've shared this same dream. The right film at the right time for me. Oz, chill, man! 5 stars
10/21/01 Senor Pescolido Requires thought? It's Slacker with funky animation. Gee, groundbreaking... 1 stars
9/16/01 coryboyd i thought this movie was provocative and beautiful. 4 stars
4/10/01 Jake Daily Actually really outstanding. Maybe you guys were hoping for more tits or explosions? 5 stars
2/16/01 Klute Bleargh 1 stars
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  17-Oct-2001 (PG-13)



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