Director Richard Linklater shot Waking Life with real actors and then called in a team of artists to paint over them, creating a faintly disconcerting yet beautiful dreamscape. The result is neither the masterpiece some believe or the masturbatory piece others claim it to be.
There’s little in the way of story. Instead, the nameless protagonist (Wiley Wiggins) simply wanders the streets, where – much like Linklater’s debut, Slackers – he meets a succession of strangers who pontificate on seemingly random subjects. The train of thought wanders by the minute, drifting from dream talk to film criticism to Situationist philosophy with a disregard for continuity that suggests the only criteria for being in this film is to talkabout something Really Big And Clever.
Anyone acquainted with Linklater’s other films ought to know what to expect here. Pretentious is one way to put it, but that’s just a kneejerk reaction to a film with big ideas. Unsubtle describes it more accurately.