If you could legitimately take, as some reviewers seem illegitimately to have
done, the final words of the Pakistani convenience store clerk, Nazir Chowdray
(Ajay Naidu), in SubUrbia as the real direction in which the film is
heading, it would not have been at all a bad picture — though written by
Eric Bogosian (from his play) and directed by that champion of Slackers,
Richard Linklater. Having watched for nearly two hours another collection of
slackers hanging out at the convenience store and generally advertising their
fecklessness, their uselessness and their charmlessness, we are more than
well-disposed to Nazir’s disgusted
dismissal of them: “You people are so
stupid. What’s wrong with you? You
throw it all away, huh? You throw it all

Just so. Nazir is not likely to make the same mistake. Sober and
hard-working, he is a part-time engineering student who expects to get a good
job and a house with a swimming pool when he finishes his course in two years.
When he sees the drunken louts who
out” at his
family’s store and mock and yell
racist taunts at him for lack of anything better to do, he is naturally
contemptuous of them. And so, perhaps, will you be if you make the mistake of
watching this rubbish. But this is not how we are meant to feel. Bogosian and
Linklater are themselves too much enamored of the slacker
(as they would no doubt call it) not to present their characters more or less
sympathetically, in spite of their moral and intellectual nullity.

Nazir’s words are only meant to
give us pause for a moment in what is otherwise a wallow in adolescent
self-importance and self-pity. Or if a more comprehensive judgment against these
kids is intended, it is overwhelmed by the seriousness with which the film has
taken them and their deep, deep silliness through the tedium of its previous 110
minutes. So tedious are they, in fact, that I can hardly bear to go back over
the ground. The kids who hang out at the
A” (little joke there, since the
character intended to be taken most seriously professes to be an anarchist)
include the Air Force dropout and former high school quarterback, Tim (Nicky
Katt), and his two buddies Jeff (Giovanni Ribisi), a would-be intellectual who
lives in a pup tent in his parents’
garage, and Buff (Steve Zahn), who works in a pizza parlor and is the most
spectacularly useless slacker of them all, a deeply repellent character who
lives only for his piggish appetites.

But grossness and stupidity is apparently supposed to make him funny. There
is also Jeff’s girlfriend, Suze (Amie
Carey), a deeply untalented performance artist who seems to dream of being the
next Karen Finley, and her high strung and apparently suicidal friend, Phoebe
(Dina Spybey), who is just out of drug rehab. They all hang out and engage in
the sort of adolescent philosophizing that Linklater has made is trademark.
“When Hitler was greasing the
Jews,” says Jeff,
“people were saying
don’t want to know about it,
don’t bum me
It’s my duty as a human being to be
pissed off.” But quite what it is
he’s pissed off about, and why and
from what he is, as he claims,
“alienated” — apart
from decency and discipline — is never made clear. He never seems to get any
further in his diagnosis of the social ills that alienated him than that
“things are f***ed up beyond

What is really beyond belief is that either Bogosian or Linklater can suppose
that that kind of vague expression of discontent is the kind of sentiment to
which every bosom must return an echo. But its vagueness is also designed to
mask the film’s own inability to
decide between Tim’s xenophobic
know-nothingism and Jeff’s obscurely
well-intentioned left-wingery. But the general ambiance of indiscipline and
self-indulgence makes it unreasonable to expect intellectual discipline or even
fully formed ideas. Suze spouts feminist jargon which is not even partially
digested and seems to think it a powerful ending to her dreary little political
skit simply to repeat “F***
you” several times.

As they are hanging out, who should come along in a stretch limousine but
their former classmate (they all seem to be a year or two out of high school),
Pony (Jayce Bartok), who has since gone on to fame and fortune as a rock star.
With him is his publicist, Erica (Parker Posey).

He seems to want to be taken by the others as still a regular guy, and tells
them that “I forgot what it was like
to just hang out. You guys are so
real!” Yes, he really says that. But
in the filmmakers’ defense, it is
apparently meant to make him seem a bit of a jerk. Success, as we also see from
the upwardly mobile Nazir, is a primal sin against the slacker code.

As the night wears on, Pony steals Suze away from Jeff with the promise of
having her design his next album cover, Jeff and Phoebe have a bit of a
heart-to-heart, Tim guesses Erika’s
life story, she throws herself at him, and, after
is taken to the extreme of its inherent ludicrousness and he pretends to have
killed her, she turns up again in the limo, having hopped into the sack with the
almost-as-repellent Buff. Buff believes that his own future is assured as
group’s director of music videos. Tim
gets arrested for drunken misbehavior and then comes back with a gun for another
display of attitude, facing off with Nazir. Then he finds Phoebe passed out,
maybe dead, from booze and pills on the roof of the convenience store. We
don’t find out what happens to

The one funny moment in the film, to my mind, is when Jeff is having his
deeply meaningful discussion with Phoebe about how f***ed up everything is and
confesses to her, what he obviously considers a shameful thing, that
“I was jealous of

Phoebe replies: “Well, yeah.
He’s rich.
He’s famous.
He’s got everything.
You’ve got

But Bogosian/Linklater cannot exploit the comedy of the moment. Instead they
have to indulge Jeff in yet another of his juvenile conceits about how Pony is
really a prisoner of his limousine and his wealth and his fame while he, Jeff,
is free — and to prove it takes off all his clothes.

Abby Hoffman, thou shouldst be living at this hour!

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