"At times it feels like a college theme park, a place you can visit to remind yourself of crazier days, a time unburdened by responsibility"

Richard Linklater returns with his first film since 2014’s hugely acclaimed Boyhood. A film that oversaw the adolescent years of its protagonist, ending on the day he moved in to his college accommodation. Everybody Wants Some!! could be seen as a spiritual successor to Boyhood, opening with college freshman Jake as he arrives at his new home three days before the start of class. But whereas Boyhood covered twelve years, the story in Linklater’s latest only covers a fraction of that time.

Cinematic newcomer Blake Jenner (small screen viewers will know him from Glee) plays Jake, a baseball player starting at a Texan university on a sports scholarship in the fall of 1980. The film opens as he moves in to the house he will share with his fellow teammates and follows him through these first few days, meeting new people, chasing girls, going out, playing sport and sleeping through class. A typical college experience. Throughout the film, Jake and his cohorts move like chameleons through a series of ‘80s college stereotypes, donning masks (metaphorically and literally) in order to fit in with various crowds.

Were it not the name of Linklater’s last film, Boyhood would’ve been an apt title for this one. As the level of machismo rises among the occupants of the baseball house you can almost smell the testosterone. The students are incredibly competitive, turning everything into a competition and constantly trying to one up each other. Everybody Wants Some!! might be rather thin on plot, something that won’t surprise fans of the director’s previous work, but where the film shines is in the banter between its characters. Despite often being ridiculous, the dialogue feels genuine, something that is usually missed in American comedies.

Anyone who’s seen any film set in an American high school or college will know how it all works (at least in the movies). The jocks and goths, the punks and kooky drama students. And anyone who has actually been to university will know it’s nothing remotely like this. The film manages to straddle this line rather well, coming across as relatable and natural, while also having a wild spontaneity. At times it feels like a college theme park, a place you can visit to remind yourself of crazier days, a time unburdened by responsibility, when you could get away with doing anything.

Therein lies the film’s greatest achievement: it plays with nostalgia, reminds us not of the university experience that we had, but the experience that we wanted to have, or perhaps imagined that everybody else was having. In this way the film playfully distorts the vision of high school or college that we are shown in countless other movies.

I mentioned earlier that Everybody Wants Some!! feels like a spiritual sequel to Boyhood, but it’s closer in fact to Dazed and Confused, Linklater’s 1993 comedy set on the last day of high school. Like that film, the world presented here looks so much fun. Viewers will spend their time wishing they were part of Linklater’s cinematic universe. Everybody Wants Some!! would work exceptionally well as a TV show, covering the rest of Jake’s time in college. Sadly, all we get here is a fleeting glimpse; the film’s two-hour running time breezes by and covers but a few short days when, truthfully, I could’ve stayed for years.