*I write every article under the assumption that the reader has seen the movie, so...SPOILERS.
For part two of my weird comedy trilogy of the ‘90s, I’m revisiting Glory Daze, which was written and directed by Rich Wilkes, the co-writer of The Stöned Age. This film about coming to terms with the end of college could easily have come and gone without notice, but the cast made it stand out, especially as many of them became increasingly famous afterwards. For me, this movie stands out because of a few random moments that my brother and I still quote. Revisiting it, however, made me realize how much I’ve aged since I last watched it.
This movie made me feel old.
I first watched this movie back in the ‘90s, when I was not even in high school, so I just found it to be a weird little college comedy. Now that I’ve gone through college and am now a parent in my mid-30s, I see it a bit differently. It’s still a weird movie, and I like it for that (more on that later), but what struck me the most was how much I hated Ben Affleck’s character this time around. I can’t remember if I found the lovesick, whiny, pretentious, and flat out dick Affleck this annoying originally. I’m afraid I may have found him interesting at best and relatable at worst. This time around, I related more with his father, who is presented here as a soulless art-hating asshole.
It might be the art major stuff that bothered me the most. What was Affleck’s goal? Had anyone ever told him he had talent? He didn’t seem to be passionate about art, since his final project was only mentioned in a couple scenes. He certainly wasn’t presented as an artist in his downtime. He was more interested in just fucking off all day and wanting to do that for the rest of his life. So when his dad yells, “Go out there and see how many people are going to pay you to arrange garbage in neat little piles!” I wanted to go through the screen and high-five him, but I’m supposed to want to punch him.
I think a lot of it has to do with Affleck’s narration, both the content and the delivery. Affleck seems to be really phoning it in, but can you blame him with lines like “I’m Jack, happy-go-fucking-lucky as the day I was born” and “he changed majors more than he changed his underwear”?
Affleck does get called out for his shit multiple times throughout the movie, so perhaps we’re meant to hate him, but I don’t think we’re supposed to hate him this much. I think he’s meant to be a bit annoying but overall a protagonist we relate to and want to see succeed. But I just wanted to see him fail and finally realize what a bitch he’s been. He does sort of realize it by the end, but not enough to my liking.
Affleck aside, I hated most of the rest of the “crew,” as well. Mickey, who inexplicably dresses like Charlie Brown at one point, is just as whiny and annoying. Sam Rockwell’s character is a complete dick to his fiancée. French Stewart is actually more tolerable than I remember, so he gets a pass. The only one who is living an honest life is Slosh, who is presented as the fuck-up of the group. Once again, this is most likely intentional (the fuck-up is actually the guy who has it figured out!), but it seems tossed in like an afterthought near the end rather than getting fully explored.
I’m still young enough to relate to the fears all of these characters, especially Affleck, are going through, but I’m also old enough to want to tell them all to grow the fuck up. Who doesn’t want to just keep partying aimlessly and hanging out with their friends every day? But like Affleck’s movie dad says, “You’ve had four years to be happy and do what you want.” It’s meant to be some old man not understanding the young line, but I agree with it. Also, everyone looks back on those college (or any other carefree moment in life) with rose-colored glasses. Yeah, when you get a job, get married, have kids, etc. life becomes a bit more tame. But there’s something to be said for building a life for yourself and others compared to scrounging up beer money for the weekend and getting fucked up every day. Plus, your body eventually can’t handle that type of drinking all the time, anyway. I’m not saying it’s bad to want to that time of your life to last longer or to revisit it, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, either.
I still like this movie for all the little odd moments.
Most of my favorite weird moments will be mentioned in the Random Thoughts section, but I wanted to comment about them a bit in general. I read somewhere (not sure where and how many people are reading this anyway and how many of them are wanting to fact check me?) that this was semi-autobiographical. I’m sure that means Wilkes went through a similar experience, wanting his college days to last forever and perhaps feuding with his parents about going to college for filmmaking or writing. But something tells me that all the random moments in this film are from his experiences in college, too.
There must have been a truck rental dude like McConaughey. He must have seen a man slapping a fish. He probably almost pissed on a dude in the bushes who then asked about a band of orcs and claimed that he, in fact, had not been in the bushes. There must have been some dickhead jokester handing out caps and gowns.
It doesn’t matter whether these moments really happened or not, but their inclusion makes this movie stand out. It’s nothing new to make a film about wanting to cling to your youth; it is something new to devote an entire scene to a miserable truck rental salesman; it’s something new to cut to a man slapping a fish in the middle of a “my parents don’t understand me” scene. That’s the kind of stuff that will bring me back to this movie, even if I do cringe when I see Affleck’s stupid face and hear his pathetic thoughts.
Oscar winners in this movie: Affleck, Damon, Rockwell, McConaughey. Crazy.
One of the worst DVD covers ever. And it makes no sense because the poster is okay. I guess they really wanted us to know Affleck was in it, and that he had a stupid face.
McConaughey’s cameo is my favorite part of this movie. “Me and the missus, couple weeks ago come out here in this particular machine. Her mother rode along with us. We got here. Ten minutes later, hell, they hit the road. I ain't seen her since. I don't know. God damn. It's what it’s all about…”
It's hard to be sympathetic for Affleck. The narration is one thing, but we're supposed to care about this guy just because he misses his ex and doesn't want to grow up? There just doesn't seem to be much reason for him to be pissed. Rhys-Davies does call him out on it, but it doesn't make it any easier to like him. He should have gotten over being pissed about being from the suburbs his freshman year, if not sooner.
Subtle touch with Affleck literally stopping the clock during the scene in which he convinces everyone to stay at college another year.
What is with Mickey's wardrobe? Charlie Brown one scene, half buttoned overalls the next? Why would Milano want to get with that?
“I wasn't in the bushes, man.”
Affleck's fucking dog tags…Stolen valor, fucker!
It's all very ‘90s, which I like.
Affleck sort of quoting The Catcher in the Rye. Come on! Although that’s another narrator I dislike more and more with age.
“We're not so happy you got a degree in art.”
“I want to do what I want my whole life.”
What restaurant serves a whole...duck?...to be carved by the diners? Is this some fancy thing I've never experienced?
Brendan Fraser and Leah Remini on the bus are great. “You’re lucky I don’t know karate!”
Also, the bus driver taking Affleck’s shirt is pretty great.
Because of this movie, there is a punk song with Sam Rockwell singing. That alone justifies its existence.
Remember when trailers were considered special features? What an odd trio of previews.