Director – Richard Linklater
Writer – Richard Linklater
Starring – Will Brittain, Zoey Deutch, Ryan Guzman, Blake Jenner, Glen Powell
Dazed and Confused will always hold a very special place in my heart. Not only was it a note-perfect en capturing of the 70’s (Which I never personally experienced, but have always loved), it was also one of the most quotable films of all time, and without doubt the greatest high-school movie ever made. Twenty-three years later, Linklater has attempted to recapture lightning in a bottle, and create a spiritual successor, this time a love-letter to the 80’s, and college. Whilst Everybody Wants Some!! is a fine cinematic experience, it sadly fails to live up it’s predecessor.
In Texas in the fall of 1980, college freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) – a hotshot pitcher in high school – moves into the house he will be sharing with other members of the fictional Southeast Texas Cherokees college baseball team, and meets several of his new teammates; including his roommate Billy (Will Brittain), who has been nicknamed “Beuter”, because of his White Southern accent. He joins Finnegan (Glen Powell), Roper (Ryan Guzman), Dale (Quinton Johnson), and Plummer (Temple Baker) and goes out cruising for women and living the college experience, attempting to find himself in the process.
As with Dazed and Confused, the plot is light and meandering, more an experience than a narrative. Unfortunately, while the meandering plot suited a film named Dazed and Confused, for obvious reasons, it doesn’t hold up quite so well here. To offer up a simple example, in the former, every character underwent a clear character arc over the course of the night, learning more about themselves as people. With Everybody Wants Some!!, nobody seems to be particularly different by the end of proceedings. Other than Jake getting his girl,;which seems, for somebody with Linklater’s mercurial ability, to be a rather simplistic plotline that we’ve seen, arguably better depicted as well, thousands of times before.
This only underpins the film’s main issue; it lacks the panache of it’s cousin, that feeling you had watching it that you were seeing something truly inspired and brilliant, a cut above your usual high-school shtick. Everybody Wants Some!!, though, sadly, doesn’t feel the same. This could, other than the Linklater trademarks that elevate it somewhat, be any old college film, following the same typical formulas, never subverting it in the same way Dazed and Confused did.
The cast is also, sadly, not quite as good as the original. While Linklater deserves acclaim for deciding to follow the same template, that being to hire relative unknowns and give them a chance for a break-out, the experiment doesn’t pan out quite as well this time. The primary difference is the natural charisma. When you consider than Ben Affleck, Matthew McCanaughey and Adam Goldberg all found their way into the same movie, and have all turned into fantastic and charismatic stars (Even if Goldberg gets a lot less mainstream attention), it’s not a surprise that the new cast can’t quite live up to it. Put simply, there’s only one Matthew Mcanaughey, and that kind of instant electricity is hard to conjure up artificially.
Jenner does a decent job, and he’s certainly likable, but he doesn’t sparkle in the same way. He has the makings of a fine actor, but I can’t see him reaching megastar status. In fact, the closest thing we get to Mcanaughey is Glen Powell, who is the star of the show by some distance. He has the same natural charisma, albeit less of it, and his pseudo-philisophical ramblings are a joy to listen to. He sparkles, certainly. The rest of the cast is very good, but as I previously alluded to, they just don’t sparkle as bright. The performances would be best described as solid, but not spectacular.
In case I’ve mis-sold the film thus far, please don’t take this as me declaring Everybody Wants Some!! is anything less than a good movie, because it certainly is. Quite simply, Linklater doesn’t make poor films. It just happens that some of his movies shine brighter than others, and by his own lofty standards, this is a bit of a step-down in quality. The script, as one would expect with a Linklater film, is seemingly loose and flexible, but with enough of his atypical philosophical undertones to not be considered fully improvised. If there’s one thing Linklater’s always done very well, that will always allow him to stand out from the pack, it’s the way he gives his actors breathing room to perform. He typically gives his actors bullet points, as opposed to meticulously scripted dialogue, and allows them to free-flow the conversation based around the general points.
This allows for spontaneity, natural reactions, and a general feeling of authenticity that allows us, the audience, to buy in more to what is happening on screen. In Dazed and Confused, for example, MCanaughey’s now classic ‘Alright, alright, alright’ and ‘I think you should ditch those two geeks in the car and get in with me, but that’s alright, we’ll worry about that later.’ lines were completely improvised and became immortal. Again, it’s clear here a lot is improv, but as previously alluded to, the cast lacks McCanuaghey’s charm and can’t quite pull it off the same way. Nevertheless, the dialogue is beautiful and believable, and Linklater continues to be one of the best screen-writers walking the Earth.
The visual elements are also great, typically being smart and effective as opposed to lambastic and overstylised. It’s ‘to the point’ film-making, but every shot is still wonderfully composed and aesthetically pleasing, without ever diverting attention from the characters and dialoge. The one thing he does truly nail in terms of Dazed and Confused’s spirit is the riveting and wonderful eclectic soundtrack. Sounding like the 80’s screaming in your ear for ninety minutes, there’s a lot to enjoy, and a lot of iconic tunes are deployed.
Fans of Dazed and Confused expecting more of the same will probably find themselves as I was; thoroughly entertained throughout the runtime, but quickly forgetting the film in a way that was impossible with the original. Whilst Dazed and Confused burrowed under your skin and etched its place in both the annals of cinematic history and your mind, Everybody Wants Some!! entertains before fading sadly into the background. A fun ride that captures the spirit of the 80’s nicely, as well as being a decent representation of the college lifestyle, it is truly a good film that will always sadly live in the shadows of a better one.
Final Rating – 4