***1/2 out of ****
I’ve always been under the impression that Richard Linklater is a director who usually gets what he wants. He continues to get modest-budget studio films shot and released even if such endeavors are losing their niche audience in theaters. When he makes a crowd-pleaser gig like School of Rock or Me and Orson Welles, it doesn’t look like a big compromise considering that he seems to enjoy the material while getting the studio respect necessary to do passion projects such as the true-crime comedy Bernie, the trippy sci-fi A Scanner Darkly, the twelve-year Boyhood project or his “Before” series (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight).
At the risk of using an oxymoron, Linklater is the most casually ambitious director I can think of. He approaches any given project like he’s effortlessly following through with a dare and not much more of a thought than ‘Let’s see what happens.’ His second feature, Dazed and Confused had the audacity to follow in the footsteps of George Lucas’ American Graffiti as an all-in-one-night-teen-hangout movie with no famous faces –but with less story conflict and more fascination in the simplicity of observing a place and a time.
What’s amazing is that people dug it and it developed a cult following. The writer/director’s nostalgic communion of teen life in 1970s Texas connected with a lot of people.
In his new film, Everybody Wants Some!! the auteur quite deliberately – and successfully - hits all the same notes in his reflection of college life in the early eighties. The movie achieves an atmosphere similar to Peter Yates’ Breaking Away and you can expect historically accurate hair and clothing styles that range between cool and hideous. The soundtrack selections are on point too.
The only difference is that this premise is less likely to win the interest of the average viewer. Dazed had the benefit of reminding people of their teen years. Only a certain percentage of people have been to college and only some of those people were in a fraternity-like setting - and most people hate frat boys. Well… at least I do.
The movie is unapologetically steeped in the world of young jocks competing with one another, getting drunk and chasing girls as it follows a charismatic freshman enduring informal rites of passage with a house of college baseball players over the three days leading up to the first classes of the semester.
As with Dazed and Boyhood, Linklater uses the film to share his identity as a people-person who may conform to ritualistic behavior in order to fit in and make friends but still finds fascination in people who couldn’t be more different from those in his assigned tribe.
Each day in the film is marked with a visit to a different gathering representing a different kind of crowd, whether it’s at a country-western-themed bar or an underground punk club. The film expresses an interest in the variance of human factions, the individuals hiding within them and their respective philosophical outlooks, even if it’s all seen from the perspective of men engaging in obnoxious behavior.
With barely any actor who I found recognizable, I was satisfied with the fresh-faced cast in this film. I don’t think that Linklater has spent his career provoking the most realistic performances, but he’s a master of staging realistic situations, finding deep satisfaction in just watching his characters exist and experience life without imposing superficial situations. This movie is a party themed around an exclusive crowd, but as always, everyone is invited.