By James Hancock March 30th, 2016
The first question everyone is going to ask about Richard Linklater’s new film Everybody Wants Some!! is how it compares to his 1993 classic Dazed and Confused. It is a fair question in that Everybody Wants Some!! is essentially a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, another ensemble piece that takes place 4 years later in 1980 with the focus on a college freshman’s first weekend on campus before school starts. Jake has a baseball scholarship and has been assigned to live in a house with the team, a hellraisin’ pack of lovable savages who make most frat houses feel like the Cub Scouts by comparison. Three days of total insanity ensue along with the kind of sincere soul searching and innocent romance that Linklater fans know and love. Hardcore fans of Dazed and Confused will likely all agree that Everybody Wants Some!! is the lesser of the two movies but that doesn’t mean that the movie isn’t absolutely worth seeing. The movie is funny as hell, features an awesome cast of characters and tackles this time period and setting like only Richard Linklater is able to. If any director who had not already made Dazed and Confused released Everybody Wants Some!!, most people would be screaming about what an outrageously original new movie it is. For my part, while watching the movie I basically did not stop grinning and laughing for two straight hours and have to say that I prefer it to Linklater’s highly lauded Boyhood which won over so many hearts in 2014.
If I sound disproportionately loyal to Dazed and Confused it is because that film came along at the perfect time in my life. I was 17 years old and the film rapidly became the most quoted and imitated movie of my generation with the countless slackers I knew trying desperately to come across half as cool as the characters in that film. It is no accident that so much of that cast went on to enjoy superstardom in the years to come, Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck in particular. In the years after its release, as I was squandering my college years doing little other than frying brain cells and obsessing over old movies, I would often comment to my friends that it was a shame that so few movies accurately capture the college experience the way Dazed and Confused had come to define the high school experience for our generation. Hollywood has an especially poor track record of depicting life in the South with any real authenticity and seems to think that every college campus is just like attending UCLA in Westwood. Richard Linklater, a Texan, is one of the few directors alive who both understands Southern culture and happens to be a fantastic filmmaker. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of director Whit Stillman, a storyteller who occupies a similar space when it comes to depictions of upper crust society in New England. Well as it turns out Everybody Wants Some!! is the movie that I always wanted to see back in college, a movie that captures the flavor of an era that will likely come to be regarded as the best story ever caught on film depicting the aimless, drifting college lifestyle so many of us have experienced.
From the way he writes his characters it is easy to imagine Richard Linklater as the most likable kid of his college back in the day, someone capable of getting along with anyone. While this film on the surface is about being on a college baseball team, Jake is one of those kids who likes pretty much everyone he meets no matter what they’re into or what kind of clique they hang out with. The film embraces the savage, unruly side of the college experience without feeling the need to turn the jocks into one-dimensional villains. There’s a scene involving cologne that will quickly grow to rival a similar scene from Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004). The best part of the film is watching how Jake and his teammates turn everything into a life or death competition from contests flicking each other’s knuckles bloody or trying to chop a baseball in half with an axe in mid flight. What little plot there is deals with Jake and his friends over the course of the weekend living life to the hilt drinking gallons of beer, chasing tail, smoking weed, and listening to music (the soundtrack to this movie is fantastic). While that might sound like every other annoying movie about college ever made, Linklater accomplishes that rare feat of injecting heart and pathos into the story. There is a not a dishonest, forced emotional beat in the entire film. Linklater’s style is so unassuming that too often he gets overlooked as a filmmaker. When it comes to camerawork and editing, his hand as a director is almost invisible but my theory is that this restraint on his part is to guarantee our focus as an audience is always on his characters and not on Linklater himself. Ordinarily I loathe coming of age stories, with their nauseatingly sanctimonious tone and incessant navel gazing but Linklater wins me over every time he makes a movie. Everybody Wants Some!! is further proof that it when it comes to character driven dramas about searching for one’s identity, Richard Linklater is the undisputed master.
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