Few filmmakers can put together a hangout movie like Richard Linklater has, and his crowning achievement in that realm is, to this day, 1993’s high school cult classic Dazed and Confused. The movie’s trailer recommended you “watch it with a bud,” but most of us who’ve seen it know that there’s no need; Linklater’s wonderfully funny, charismatic, super cool characters are all the company you could ever want.
Billed as the “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused, Linklater’s latest, Everybody Wants Some!!, follows its predecessor’s formula to great success, its director’s tools now several times sharper than before. The two films share a general locale with both taking place in Southeast Texas, but while Dazed followed its characters on the last day of high school in the ’70s, the new film takes us to the early ’80s, following a fictional university’s baseball team as they shack up and party on over the long weekend before the start of the fall semester.
Bromance and romance overflow as we watch the boys get acquainted with each other and with the pretty girls scattered around their little college town. Our in is Jake (Blake Jenner), a chipper freshman who’s joining the team as pitcher. When he arrives at the semi-decrepit campus house designated for the team, he’s met with a mixed reaction: the older players don’t take kindly to pitchers, while Jake’s fellow wide-eyed newbies have no problem palling around. The common denominator is the team’s passion for partying, and party they do. By day, they laze about, smoke pot, sit in circles and space out to psychedelic rock records; by night, they’re tearing it up at local clubs and trashing their already-crumbling abode beyond recognition with all-night ragers.
Everyone will walk out of this movie with a favorite character, and the fact that (at my screening, at least) they varied wildly speaks to how great they are. There’s Finn, the faux-intellectual ladies man; Dale the cool-as-a-cucumber, cultured team veteran; Willoughby the golden-haired, guru-like stoner with a secret; Beuter the cowboy outsider with a needy girlfriend back home. The list goes on, and every one of them is fantastic and hilarious. My favorite is Plummer (Temple Baker), a secondary character who nonetheless makes a big impression with his sleepy-dumb-guy appeal. This was actually Baker’s first acting role, but Linklater’s casting instincts are ridiculously good at this point in his career. The chemistry between the cast members is like butter, which is and always will be the key to hangout movies.
One of the most extraordinary things about Linklater’s Boyhood is that it doesn’t have any sort of forced dramatic agenda. It’s a quality Everybody Wants Some!! shares; there are no big fist fights, shocking betrayals or tearful breakup scenes to be found. There’s emotion running throughout, but it all flows and arises organically, which takes away a lot of the anxiety we’re used to swallowing in coming-of-age tales. This is easy viewing through and through, though that’s not to say it’s shallow. It’s far from it, in fact; living with Linklater’s characters as they explore life, unsupervised, without inhibition, engages the heart and takes you back to a freewheeling, optimistic state of mind and body that many of us let go of a long time ago.
Featuring dazzling performances from an all-star cast led by Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore, and Bill Hader, Rebecca Miller delivers a brilliant genre-bending film that works on many levels. Equal parts whimsical, rom-com, and highbrow, Maggie’s Plan feels like a Woody Allen film. The film provides interesting perspectives relationships and love, suggesting that love is messy and that it’s not about who you want to spend the rest of your life with, as much as it’s about figuring out who you can’t spend your life without. Miller throws a curveball at the traditional story arc, keeping the viewer on their toes.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
There’s nothing complicated about this zany New Zealand-set comedy, which seems aimed at the same younger demographic who fell in love with Napoleon Dynamite. Though there’s some adult humor sprinkled throughout, it’ll be the young adult audience laughing at every gag while older viewers eventually grow tired of the cheap laughs (especially the repeated fat jokes) and dispensable storyline. Fans of Flight of the Conchords will be delighted to see Rhys Darby in the film, and he steals the whole film with his small role. While most of the humor and wacky shenanigans become tiresome by the end, those looking for some light entertainment will find just that.
The Eagle Huntress
The Eagle Huntress features a determined 13-year-old Mongolian girl named Aishoplan, who hopes to become the first ever female Eagle Hunter in the practice’s 2,000 years of existence. Capturing breathtaking views of snowy Mongolian landscapes, the documentary offers a bird’s eye view into the life of a true heroine. It’s a doc that makes you interested in a subject you never thought you’d care about. With the help of big name executive producers (Morgan Spurlock and Daisy Ridley) backing The Eagle Huntress, hopefully this beautifully shot and uplifting documentary will reach the audience it deserves.