Everybody Wants Some!!, the new film written and directed by Richard Linklater, is being officially pitched as a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, the belatedly beloved sophomore effort from the filmmaker. Dazed and Confused was something of a dud upon it’s release, in 1993, but its stoner humor was perfectly suited to the languid development of a cult following, cultivated in dorm rooms and high schoolers’ rec rooms from coast to coast. Like its tangentially related predecessor, Everybody Wants Some!! is a squirrelly period piece, notching ahead a couple of calendar years, to 1980, as Jake (Blake Jenner) arrives at a Texas college where he’s a pending freshman under a baseball scholarship. He’s assigned to one of the houses on the outskirts of campus, stocked with teammates equally disinterested in academia and fully invested in the hedonistic behavior that has been a staple of college-set films since at least the point when Pinto and Flounder first wandered into the Delta Tau Chi house.
The additional commonality with Dazed and Confused is the conviction to avoid a true plot at all costs. There are a couple of story threads — the most prominent is a mildly implausible courtship with a pretty theater and dance major named Beverly (Zoey Deutch) — but the film mainly moves on its own lackadaisical wavelength, exploring the boozy recreational activities and minor character skirmishes that take place in the few days between arrival on campus and the start of classes. Luckily, Linklater is better at this meandering style than most. It suits his humanistic curiosity and plays to his capacity for finding the quietly profound within the mundane. When Everybody Wants Some!! is invested in exploring the ways living as a young adult is an ongoing experiment in identity, trying on guises as an effort to draw others in, it is generally successful, making up for its more rickety stretches with stealthy swells of insight.
There’s another key effort from Linklater’s filmography that casts a long shadow on Everybody Wants Some!! That’s Boyhood, which will likely wriggle in the margins of the director’s new works for quite some time. In effect, Everybody Wants Some!! begins where Boyhood ends: the arrival at college. Where Boyhood‘s Mason seem poised to gently and gracefully begin anew, the new film shows what happens when youth implodes and there’s nothing productive to take its place, especially for the male of the species. Linklater, who himself arrived at college as a student athlete at around the time the new film take place, may very well be looking at this masculine mayhem with nostalgia, but it all struck me as the rollicking epitome of dunderheaded aimlessness. The transition between boy and man requires a stop as a human disaster, the film implicitly argues. If that’s not the film’s deftest thesis, it’s probably its most convincing. Hold tight, fellas. Someday the confusion will lift.