For a many residents of Boston, it’s back to school season, and to celebrate the myriad pleasures and distractions of academia, the Brattle Theatre is featuring two Richard Linklater filmic hangouts: the low-stakes, unassumingly brilliant Dazed and Confused (1993) paired with the thematically and structurally similar Everybody Wants Some!! (2016). The former takes us through the universal minutiae of the last day of school and first night of summer vacation, 1976. The update moves us into the weekend before college classes start. Both films aren’t looking for much and just don’t want anything to harsh a good buzz. They are goofy and earnest and often bemusedly philosophical. This actually describes a great deal of Linklater’s material, and I confess to, more often than not, finding him genial and charming. Like many a semi-stoned conversation his curiosity and humanity tends to outweigh the occasional clumsiness of his delivery. Certainly more so in the earlier film.
Dazed and Confused remains a kind of beautiful trip that feels sweetly authentic. The story is full of excitement and possibility but always tinged with bittersweet transience only partially understood. Issues of where to get beer, who will be at what party (and how to find out while appearing casually disinterested), whether or not to play football next year, and how to secure Aerosmith tickets are addressed with adolescent gravity. The rituals of high school are adhered to but increasingly undercut by broadening perspectives. The small world is waning and the future is uncertain, even if just for the night. This is the Linklater balancing act at its most endearing. This is life and love and purpose all refracted through a night of driving around, hanging out. Dazed and Confused is goofy but inclusive. The impeccably soundtracked nostalgia is cut with just enough vapid bullshit to sidestep the saccharine. It’s the buzz but with some of the attendant headache and self-consciousness. It’s also a winning ideation of the unifying force of good music and good conversation. As unlikely as this can sometimes play in reality, the film makes us all slightly less cynical, like for a night at least. When Matthew McConaughey’s legendary sleaze makes a pass at shy Marissa Ribisi, both her friends’ disgust and her own tentative interest are completely organic. And you can sort of buy all these kids hanging out for awhile.
Which brings us to Everybody Wants Some!! which has the unfortunate comparative feeling of just hanging out with Ben Affleck and his frosh hazing drinking buddies – for a full weekend this time, instead of a night. The film is not without nuance or charm but the fact is there’s a whole lot of butt slapping, macho posturing, and the tiresome aggro-cocktail of liberal testosterone and alcohol levels. And nary an Adam Goldberg to throw a counterpunch, even if that act ultimately proved counterproductive. Even when the bros find themselves out of place at a punk show, any creeping unease is quickly forgotten in the discovery that despite different clothing all of them are beer-guzzling, neanderthal, pussy-hounds. All of which is totally awesome, for roughly half of a college population. As touching as Zoey Deutch’s portrayal of giddy romance is, she represents pretty much the only glimmer of female agency in almost two hours of chest beating. Glibly framed by her Joni Mitchell poster, no less. And yeah, no film is obligated to be gender balanced. And as an examination of alpha male bonding and insecurity Everybody Wants Some!! is always clever and often poignant. The mantra of “embrace your inner fuckin strange” is pure Linklater and solid advice. Sometimes this ‘spiritual sequel’ just seems a little thin, particularly judged against its seemingly effortless predecessor. No less thrilling, however, is the soundtracks’ manic amalgam of jock jams, disco, funk, punk and new-wave propelling it into another era.
Linklater’s goofball insistence on the therapeutic properties of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll is maybe tired, but not exhausted. May it never truly be. Alright, check you later!
Everybody Wants Some
dir. Richard Linklater
Friday, 9/2 – Monday, 9/5 @ 4:30, 9:15 PM
Dazed and Confused
dir. Richard Linklater
Friday, 9/2 – Monday, 9/5 @ 7:00 PM