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in the crowd was insufficient compensation for facial depilation. Envy is not the motivation for any disparagement of the beardless performances of McConaughey, By Hollywood standards, Slacker, whose production values are primitive and whose cast is amateur, is not much of a movie. But for those who kept it as well as Dazed and Confused running for more than a year at Austin’s Dobie Theater, it is more than just a movie; it is a generational anthem, the manifesto of a laid-back sensibility. The Newton Boys, by contrast, is very much a movie, but not much more than that. A bus seems a better vehicle than a limousine for Linklater’s special art. The Newton Boys is a radiant string of felonious capers, of exploding safes and clamorous retreats, but it is character not plot that drives the other Linklater films. “If there’s any kind of magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone else,” observes Julie Delpy’s Selena in Before Sunrise. Linklater has always been drawn to that kind of magic. It is the personalities of the serendipitous lovers during their brief encounter in Vienna that drives Before Sunrise, just as Slacker is a mobile gallery of local eccentrics, and Dazed and Confused and SubUrbia are each thin on incident, which is incidental to the revelation of character. “I forgot what it was like to just hang out,” says Pony \(Jayce BarSubUrbia who returns to Burnfield, just to hang out with a group of twentysomething slackers. Dazed and Confused provides the opportunity to just hang out with some twenty teen-agers during eighteen hours of a late spring day. Early in Before Sunrise, Ethan Hawke’s Jesse shares his idea for a daily cable TV show that would present twenty-four hours of real time in 365 different cities. “It’s like a National Geographic program,” replies Selena, “only on people.” Indeed, it’s like a Linklater film, always on people. The Newton Boys is an ensemble piece, but the people are often less compelling than their escapades. Nevertheless, Linldater himself insists on the integrity of his oeuvre. At Austin’s South by Southwest Film Festival in March, he emphasized continuities between the earlier films and The Newton Boys: “It’s a character piece, like every thing else I’ve done.” And he contends that at least two members of the Newton clan, a band averse to an honest day’s work, are kin to the lively deadbeats who hang out elsewhere in the Linklater universe: “I think Willis and Joe were slackers.” Producer Walker-McBay observes that for all A “Madonna’s pap smear,” from Slacker the largesse of the Fox budget, they were limited to about half the cost of an average Hollywood production, and making The Newton Boys at eighty-one locations in fifty-six days on a mere $25 million was more difficult than making Dazed and Confused for $6 million. If the Linklater THE BUSINESS THAT LINKLATER CONDUCTS IN THE NEWTON BOYS IS TO REVEL IN THE RAMBUNCTIOUSNESS OF A BUNCH OF HANDSOME MEN WHO HAPPEN TO ROB BANKS. BOYS WILL BE BOYS, EVEN IF THEY ARE ADULT FELONS. gang has sold out, the price was paltry. Linldater grew up in Huntsville, and sometimes accompanied his mother on visits to the state penitentiary. “I like the mentality of the outlaw,” he told Charlie Rose. What distinguishes the Newtons from the slackers in Linklater’s other films is the volition with which they violate the law, how carefully they plan their heists. A genuine slacker would not claim, as the real Willis Newton does in documentary footage interspersed among the final credits of Linklater’s movie: “We was just businessmen like doctors and lawyers and storekeepers. Robbin’ banks and trains was our business.” Neither the aging anarchist in Slacker who dreams of “pulling a Guy Courtesy Detour Fawkes on the Texas legislature” nor any of the layabouts who loiter outside a convenience store in SubUrbia finds anything to emulate in doctors and lawyers and storekeepers. But the business that Linklater conducts in The Newton Boys is to revel in the rambunctiousness of a bunch of handsome men who happen to rob banks. Boys will be boys, even if they are adult felons. “We are just little thieves stealing from the big thieves,” explains McConaughey’s Willis to Ulrich’s Joe. “The banks have been dealing dirt to our people since before we were born.” Yet they are hardly Robin Hoods, since the cash that they filch from the rich goes not to the poor but to sate their own gaudy appetites for clothes, cars, jewels, and women. Linklater is not a cinematic socialist; his sympathies have always lain not so much with the oppressed as with those who opt out no, drift out of the whole oppressive system. So his latest confection, a celebration of burglars as businessmen, is a departure from the first four films, down the road to commercial entertainment. Glorifying bandits as merely MAY 8, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27