2001 - R - 99 Mins.
|Director: Richard Linklater
|Producer: Caroline Kaplan
|Written By: Richard Linklater
|Starring: Wiley Wiggins, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Lorelei Linklater, Timothy Speed Levitch
|Review by: Joe Rickey
Director Richard Linklater created a film in 1991 by the name of Slacker. That film, concerning a subculture formed by a group of high school dropouts, became a sort of classic among some groups of people. Linklater once again probes the territory of philosophy in his film Waking Life, a vividly animated film about a person who waxes philosophy with those around him.
The film is mostly plotless, as it never really attempts to weave any sort of coherent plot into its philosophical ideas presented. It seems content to be a sort of commentary about the aforementioned subject more than it has any idea about being what would be considered the normal way for a movie to progress. It seems to be a movie in search of knowing things, presenting complex ideas about what it knows, and then it feels content to end on that note.
Waking Life has the bulk of its philosophical underpinnings concentrated on what separates the dream world from what is considered reality. It utilizes a unique animation style in an attempt to make the film seem like a waking dream, hence the film’s title. The animation is what ultimately will determine whether you are kept riveted to the screen or not because the constant discussion of philosophy eventually grows tiresome and only the unique animation is there to keep one’s attention.
The film was originally filmed live, sans the animation with such people as Ethan Hawke and Steven Soderbergh making appearances. Then the animation was done over them to create a wholly surreal look that fits the tone of film perfectly. This process was no doubt time-consuming and the end result is visually impressive, to say the least. From the way the different people animate when they talk to the stunning detail of the backgrounds, Waking Life is easily one of the best-looking movies in a long while.
Unfortunately, all the visual pizzazz can’t save the film completely because of the fact that, in the end, the film has no real satisfying conclusion. A film must always have an appropriate conclusion because that is what the viewer is most likely to remember the most from a film for the obvious reasons. At times also, the film seems more like the viewer is sitting in on a college-level philosophy class more so than watching a feature film.
Overall, Waking Life is certainly a beautiful film at the same time as it is a meandering and oftentimes endless one. In the end, it is up to the viewer whether they can sit through a very talky film in order to observe some stunning animation at work.