Everybody Wants Some!! is not a sequel to Dazed and Confused in the traditional sense. It introduces a new cast of characters who operate in a different setting, but both films follow an ensemble and focus on capturing the essence of a particular zeitgest as opposed to plot. Everybody Wants Some!! is a filmic older brother to Dazed and Confused. It's about early adulthood’s next steps, taken by another character in an adjacent story.
Academy Award-winning director Richard Linklater has called his latest film, Everybody Wants Some!! (2016), a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused (1993). It’s not a sequel in the traditional sense: the camera follows an entirely new cast of characters who operate in a different dynamic. Both films are based somewhat on Linklater’s experience as a teenager in Texas in the 70s and 80s, and they capture the essence of particular cultural moments occuring in 1976 and 1980. Dazed and Confused and Everybody Wants Some!! are kin from the same parent, but the films are equally as nuanced as the characters they follow and the realized atmospheres in which they are set.
For any Dazed and Confused fan, it will be difficult to watch Linklater’s latest without cross-referencing it with the cult film every step of the way. In many senses, Everybody Wants Some!! picks up where its predecessor left off. Dazed and Confused follows the lives of several teenagers on the last day of high school in 1976, where Everybody Wants Some!! is about a Texas college’s baseball team in 1980, partying through the weekend before class begins. Both films depict thoughtful protaganists at moments of adolescent transition.
Dazed and Confused’s Pink (Jason London) is a low-key high school football player who wants to escape from this premeditated path as an athlete. Jake (Blake Jenner) is a freshman pitcher who is happy living in the world of the baseball team, but, like Pink, he craves something more. Instead of watching Pink contemplate his post-high school future as he lays on the football field smoking a joint, we’re now watching Jake immerse himself in the beginnings of the diverse experiences college has to offer.
Everybody Wants Some!!, 2016
Perhaps Linklater places his protagonists in transitional moments because they inspire the conversational philosophy his characters are known for, just as turning points in real life inspire attempts at poetry. Some of the best Linklater conversations occur in his critically acclaimed Boyhood (2014), which took 12 years to make, and in the Before Sunrise series (1995; 2004; 2013), which likewise used the real passage of time to add depth as it chronicled the relationship between characters Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke; Julie Delpy). The director's films circle around characters working through ideas — people who think in various rhythms and have both unexpected wisdom and marijuana-fueled rants to share — regardless of their levels of life experience or portrayed intelligence. Everybody Wants Some!! is no exception when it comes to insightful conversations, even if the bros' revelations aren't as groundbreaking as they think. But that's what being eighteen is about.
Much of the film’s advice comes from Jake’s teammate Willoughby (Wyatt Russell). He tells Jake to embrace his “inner strange” as a pitcher and that growing up is about “finding out who you are in between the notes they offer you.” Later in the film, Willoughby passes around the bong and gives his teammates the ultimate stoner speech. He hilariously reenacts the ascending cord progressions in Pink Floyd’s “Fearless” and yells that the only reason people like Van Halen is because “corporate America is shoving them down our throats!” Willoughby’s character seems a grown-up version of Dazed and Confused’s Slater (Rory Cochrane), who smoked and ranted things like: “George Washington was in a cult, and the cult was into aliens, man” and "Did you ever look at the dollar bill, man? There's some spooky shit goin' on there." By the end of the film, Willoughby's character more closely represents Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey) when his teammates discover that he was a 30-year-old posing as a college freshman.
Dazed and Confused, 1993
The message of Everybody Wants Some!! — which ends with a professor writing "Frontiers are where you find them" on a chalkboard as the partied-out main character falls asleep in his very first class — is that college is a place to diversify your experiences. This idea informs the music, the social situations and the bros’ philosophical digressions. At times, though, the philosophizing feels forced, as if the characters are mouth-pieces for the story's larger themes.
Linklater is a master of rendering portraits of a period, and this has a lot to do with music selection. It’s hard to forget the songs of Dazed and Confused: “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper, “Low Rider” by War, “Slow Ride” by Foghat. The music sets the tone for the film, building the end-of-school atmosphere. The soundtrack to Everybody Wants Some!! is also vital to the story. It's full of high energy music that is memorable in its diversity. The film is set in 1980, a period of musical transition when many Americans were in aural limbo of disco, country, punk and hip-hop music. We see Jake and his teammates take turns rapping verses of “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugar Hill Gang as they cruise around campus in someone’s car, and there are several dancing scenes at the local disco, where they guys woo women with their Soul Train pelvis-thrusting moves. The team’s first batting practice is set to Devo’s “Whip It,” and, of course, the very name of the film is reference to a Van Halen song. As Linklater said in the film’s production notes, “Everybody Wants Some!! is a song that perfectly captures the humor and raunch of being eighteen. When you’re young and passionate, you want to have it all.”
Everybody Wants Some!!, 2016
Everybody Wants Some!! and Dazed and Confused are films that have similar frameworks. They both follow a large cast of characters and focus on capturing the essence of a particular zeitgest as opposed to plot. In the foreground, the stories are about friends doing basically nothing, making inappropriate jokes and spending the long days of their youth together. But in the background, Linklater’s characters contemplate larger questions of transition, self-discovery, and openness. While they are not directly linked in content, Everybody Wants Some!! is a kind of filmic older brother to Dazed and Confused: it's about early adulthood’s next steps, taken by another character in a different story.