Richard Linklater makes fantasy films about life’s realities. Sex, drugs, growing up, romance, violence, humour, employment and human connection; that’s a pretty broad spectrum but then the themes that saturate Linklater’s films are undeniably ambitious. He has an uncanny knack, perhaps more so than any other filmmaker, to use that broad spectrum to engender nostalgia for moments and people that don’t involve us in any manner other than in the passivity of film watching. There’s a widespread principle in comic book art in which a character should be drawn with features that are vacant enough that the reader might be able to see themselves in that character. Linklater’s best work, Dazed And Confused, the Before trilogy and Boyhood adhere to the fundamentals of that principle. That’s where the nostalgia comes from. That’s where the reality comes from. The fantasy comes from Linklater’s idealism.
Everybody Wants Some!! is Linklater’s new film. It’s a continuation of Boyhood in the sense that it begins as a young man arrives at college, which is the point in which Boyhood ended. It’s a sequel to Dazed And Confused in the sense that it’s essentially the same film, which isn’t a bad thing. It may be one of the few examples of creative repetition that’s a great thing. Dazed And Confused isn’t a film driven by narrative or anything other than by the characters that inhabit it. Watching Dazed And Confused is hanging with those characters. Rewatching Dazed And Confused is to revisit old friends. With Everybody Wants Some!! provides the world with a bunch of new friends, and their company is always welcome.
Everybody Wants Some!!, like Dazed And Confused before it, is life as we want it and what it might have been, periodically and fleetingly, but often isn’t. Linklater is an optimist, even when the characters are behaving their worst. There’s a degree of misrepresentation and romanticising. It’s youth idealised, a notion of college held by people with it ahead of them, and people with it far behind them. It doesn’t matter. Linklater’s optimism is an asset, not a burden. The film is warm, the characters vibrant, and like Dazed And Confused, we are part of the crew.
That’s the old comic book principle. Jake (Blake Jenner) is the central character. He’s the least interesting, a blank canvas and also our entry point into the fictional college baseball team, the Southeast Texas Cherokees. The men of the Cherokees live together in a pair of off-campus houses, donated to them by the local community because campus dorms are overpopulated. Jake is a freshman, and a pitcher for the team. There are three days until class begins. The team coach warns them not to drink in the house and not to take girls to the bedrooms upstairs. Both of those rules will be broken on the first night in the house.
They love drinking and they love girls but the men are also fiercely competitive with one another, and find competition in almost every activity in which they engage. A lot of Everybody Wants Some!! will ring true. That’s the appeal of the Linklater films that follow this mould. But, like the overnight stroll through Vienna with an attractive stranger in Before Sunset may be the archetypal example of idealised romance, Everybody Wants Some!! is a romantic image of youth. People tell you they are the best days of your life. Watching Linklater’s films, they just might be.
It’s difficult to discuss Everybody Wants Some!! without broaching Dazed And Confused excessively. The two films are so similar and they share almost exactly the same appeal. Dazed And Confused was Linklater’s third feature film. Everybody Wants Some!! is his twentieth. There is a twenty-three year gap between the two films. What has changed with the power of hindsight and twenty-three years of creative development? Ultimately, nothing. Everybody Wants Some!! isn’t about what Linklater has learnt in the last twenty-three years, it’s what he learned as a young man. He might have release the film in 1995 and it probably would have been exactly the same. To paraphase Dazed And Confused’s Wooderson – Linklater keeps getting older but the young just stay the same age.