Marketed and written as the "spiritual sequel" to 1993's "Dazed and Confused," Richard Linklater creates yet another living-in-the-moment type of film. While "Dazed and Confused" follows a variety of age groups hanging out during one day and heading to a party, this film tackles one age group of college baseball players from freshman to seniors, living in a frat house, over the course of one weekend. As the semester is about to begin, they, like most college students, party around each night, whether it is in their own house or someone else's, just to have a good time. Dealing with drugs, alcohol, and life itself just like it's spiritual predecessor, it already has a tougher time having the same impact when everyone is technically legal to participate in said activities.
That being said, this film does not rely on those aspects for the messages to get across, but rather lies in the characters themselves. Sure, the illegal activities are always in the foreground, but are rarely delved into, because the audience gets it. This film explores the 1980's, but not just the way it is remembered. It explores the weirdos, the jocks, the stoners, boozers, and of course, the romantics. The main focus here is on Jake, who is played enjoyably well by Blake Jenner, is the quiet one of the team who follows along while finding love in unexpected places. At it's core, like most Linklater pictures, it is a hangout film. It teaches you to live in the moment, be who you are no matter what, and try to see where you fit in the world. I will rave about this film to everyone I know, because I had an absolute blast with this film, and while there are really no flaws with any of Richard Linklater's films, due to their simplicity, there are a few gripes I have to address about this particular film.
Like mentioned above, there seems to be no real stakes when the illegal activities occur, which is notably saved by the comedy, which is very subtly done if I may add. That being said, the film (while different in many ways) feels like a slight retread of "Dazed and Confused" almost like "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in that franchise. I do not mean to compare a film like this to something as big as that, but while both are similar in story to their predecessors, they are still amazingly fun movies on their own. Richard Linklater plays a safe card with this film, but his safe card is still satisfyingly fantastic. My negatives with this film really are just nitpicks, so I really do not have much to do but talk about how great it is. At a lengthy two hours, it did feel like it could have been trimmed down a bit, but I never once felt myself bored or complaining.
Richard Linklater writes his films with such ease that it almost feels like a documentary sometimes. When he directed the film "Boyhood" over the course of twelve years, it felt more like a life-like progression of the actors. He does the same thing here, where characters do not feel like they are reading a script, but more just improving and living in the moment. The amazing thing about his films though is that is not the case. He carefully thinks about what each character would say, making for a very fast-paced progression of characters throughout the time spent with them. I loved every character in this film and the payoff at the end is so natural to the point that I nodded my head and agreed with where he chose to end it. Well-shot, well-directed, well-written, helming an addictive soundtrack, and feeling like you are truly in the 1980's, this film is an absolute blast from start to finish.
Recommendation: To myself, this is a film to watch with friends, to have a few drinks to, or simply if you are a huge Linklater fan. If you do not like either "Boyhood" or "Dazed and Confused," this film will not win you over, because it is almost like a mesh of both. I loved that, which is why I highly recommend this film.
Review By: KJ Proulx