Back in 1993 Richard Linklater took a trip back to the world of his youth with Dazed and Confused, throwing the audience headlong into the world of a Texan high school in the mid-1970s and all the typical comings and goings that went along with it, delivered by an ensemble cast of relative unknowns.
Now, 23 years later, he’s taken us back to first days of college life in Texas in September 1980 with Everybody Wants Some!! a film that is, in almost every sense, a sequel to his earlier work.
The film opens on freshman Jake pulling up at his ‘new’ residence with The Knack’s My Sharona blasting from his stereo and, as he meets his new housemates/teammates, we are again thrown into this nostalgia drenched world of pure Americana.
Jake and his new friends are all baseball players, the stars of the college campus, and the plot, what there is of it, charts the freshman’s journey through the three days leading up to the new term. It’s a whirlwind of clichés from parties, discos and bars to one night stands, stoner philosophy and chance romantic encounters hinting at something deeper we’ve come to expect form American college comedy.
What sets it apart though is that, despite the cliché and stereotypes, Linklater and his young cast imbue the whole thing with a sense of reality and heart.
This isn’t American Pie, where it’s all slapstick and humour for the sake of it, but something more, with a sense that behind the ‘let the good times roll’ mentality, there is substance.
As the film goes on we see hints of the raw competitive nature present in this crowd of ‘jocks’ while the stoner philosophy gives way to something of an exploration of male youth identity.
Like its predecessor though what makes the film so enjoyable is that it never dwells on these subjects, it simply hints and suggests putting the idea in the viewers head before getting caught up in the next party, making it a perfect thumbnail sketch of youthfully exuberant college life.
Though I will admit there were a few moments earlier on where I thought it might go a bit too ‘laddish’ to use a more British expression – thankfully it never quite did.
The main cast, led by Blake Jenner as Jake, are all excellent and there is a real sense that we are watching a team, with the new freshmen being ‘guided’ by experienced sophomores into this exciting new world of not-quite-adulthood and damn any real consequences.
This seems to be something Linklater is particularly good at bringing out of his actors as while there is a nominal lead, the whole group are essential to the film and the team feeling comes across as part of both the actors and characters.
Highlights amongst them other than Jenner’s everyman are Glen Powell as Finn, a character in some ways akin to Matthew McConaughey’s Wooderson in Dazed and Confused, and the almost surreal Jay Niles played by Juston Street who is a sight to behold.
You’ll notice the lack of female characters here and it is very true to say the film comes entirely from an alpha-male perspective but that is the story it is telling and the world it is set in so, for the most part, this didn’t bother me as much as I initially thought it might.
Certainly in some senses Everybody Wants Some!! is pretty superficial and it never quite hits the highs of Dazed and Confused for capturing something of a truly universal spirit.
Throughout though it is in turns genuine, funny and thought-provoking in a way few films manage to balance and all set to a great example of a mixtape soundtrack that spans everything from Cheap Trick and The Sugarhill Gang to Devo and Stiff Little Fingers before ending on a note that genuinely had me asking what happens for this team next or is this where the real world starts to catch up?