In the 1993 high-school film Dazed and Confused, the character Cynthia – the bright one, the one with the red, courageous hairdo – said she'd prefer to stop thinking of the present "as some minor, insignificant preamble to something else." Commendable thinking – a counterpoint to life's moments being seen only as stepping stones.
In the film world, more than ever we see new movies viewed not for what they are in isolation, but as possible (hopeful) franchise vehicles. It doesn't completely matter if a film is good, bad or somewhere in between, but whether or not it can attract enough audience to foster sequels. Or, for that matter, prequels.
Our friend Cynthia, who was neither dazed nor confused, didn't wish to be preoccupied with what comes next, and neither did the film's writer-director Richard Linklater. Dazed and Confused, a comical, stoned and anthropological look at the high-school culture of 1976's Middle America, glided from character to character and clique to clique on the last day of school. It was a day in a life, with no plot leading the way.
Twenty-three years later comes Everybody Wants Some!!, a testosterone-soaked comedy that Linklater has dubbed the "spiritual sequel" to Dazed and Confused. Set in 1980 on the fictional college campus of Southeast Texas State University, the ambling film follows the beer-drinking, gal-chasing shenanigans of the school's high-calibre baseball team, as the fall semester is about to get under way.
"It's a party," Linklater says, while at a downtown Toronto hotel recently.
"And what makes a great party? People, music, energy. That's the only way I can describe this film."I hadn't actually asked him to describe anything. All I'd done is congratulate him on his film and his deep tan, which was enough of an introduction for him to start on the spiel he's been delivering ever since the film screened last month at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Tex., where he lives.
But about the party, Linklater could have added mud-wrestling, mustaches and unfiltered alpha-male posturing to further paint the picture of Everybody Wants Some!!, named after the raunchy and riotous Van Halen song of the same name. But if the film is Dazed and Confused's spiritual follow-up – it's not an actual sequel; no characters are reprised – it has more in common with something like John Landis's rowdy fraternity-row blow-out from 1978.
"Animal House is an inescapable, huge influence," Linklater says, pouring glasses of sparkling water. "The DNA of Animal House is baked into this movie."
Actually, that DNA is baked into Linklater, bronzed and defiantly boyish at the age of 55. He was a book-reading baseball player who, during his freshman year at Sam Houston State University in Texas, bunked and partied in the same type of wild, oversized house in which the boys of Everybody Wants Some!! do their beer-y best to delay adulthood, with the help of Susan Anton posters, pro-baseball dreams and Mahogany Rush records.
"I will admit to a certain nostalgic element to this movie, to be sure," Linklater, the filmmaker behind 2014's groundbreaking drama Boyhood and the trilogy of Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight says.
Like Dazed and Confused (which in its cast counted the unknown versions of Matthew McConaughey, Jason London, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Parker Posey, Adam Goldberg, Cole Hauser, Renée Zellweger and Joey Lauren Adams), Everybody Wants Some!! uses an ensemble of relative novices. Fans of Glee programs might recognize Blake Jenner (playing the lead, a boy-next-door freshman), and enthusiasts of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn might be familiar with the Hollywood couple's sun-splashed son Wyatt Russell. But the mostly male group is an obscure bunch.
Will this new class of Linklater actors graduate to the success of the Dazed and Confused crew? "They're talented," Linklater says. "I feel similar, but I just hope the parts and opportunities are out there for them in the future."
But who's worried about the future? This new film about Linklater's beloved bygone era lives for the moment and ends on the first day of classes, with a freshman jock napping in the lecture hall as an old Cars hit plays over the closing credits. "Let the good times roll," the song and the creed goes. "Let the photos be old, let them show what they want."