Synopsis: A college baseball player arrives at university and bonds with his new teammates in the days before classes begin.
Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Blake Jenner, Will Brittain, Zoey Deutch, Ryan Guzman
Release date: May 13, 2016
Running time: 117 mins
Described by writer-director Richard Linklater as a “spiritual sequel” to his cult last-days-of-high-school comedy Dazed and Confused, his latest feature (named after a Van Halen song) can also be read as a loose follow-up to his coming-of-age classic Boyhood, since the new film picks up at around the same stage in life that Boyhood ended, albeit in a different time period and with a different lead character.
The result is one of the best films of the year, even if it’s not quite as awards-friendly as Linklater’s previous Oscar-winner.
A hang-out movie par excellence
Set over four days in August 1980, the film centres on Jake (Glee star Blake Jenner), a baseball pitcher starting his first year at a fictional Texas university.
Arriving at the house he’ll share with his fellow college baseball players, Jakes spends the next three days and fifteen minutes (as a handy onscreen countdown informs us) getting to know his teammates – including smooth-talking Finn (Glenn Powell) and cocky alpha male McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) – as they drink, take bong hits, play games, attend baseball practice, chase girls, hit nightclubs and throw parties.
He also strikes up an unexpected connection with theatre major Beverly (Zoey Deutch).
Linklater’s laid-back, free-flowing structure (as showcased in several of his previous films) has lead to this particular sub-genre being labelled the “hang-out movie”.
As such, this is a hang-out movie par excellence, with no real plot to speak of, ensuring that, like Jake, you gradually relax into the rhythm of the film and get a feel for who all the different characters are.
Jenner delivers an immensely likeable performance, and it’s fascinating to watch him slowly become more confident in his new surroundings – he also sparks appealingly sweet chemistry with Deutch.
Of the supporting cast, Powell stands out as pick-up artist Finn (and nabs all the best lines), while Will Brittain makes a strong impression as Jake’s dopey roommate Beuter.
Rehabilitates the image of the jock
Linklater effortlessly captures the lust for life that accompanies the first taste of away-from-parents freedom that university represents.
He also single-handedly rehabilitates the image of the jock in popular culture. These guys may be perpetually horny, competitive types (they’re actually a lot more fun to be around than that sounds), but they’re also witty, thoughtful, insecure and very, very funny, essentially a far cry from the usual jock stereotypes in American movies.
In addition, the film is heightened by a combination of Shane F. Kelly’s sun-drenched cinematography, some stunningly detailed, nostalgia-inducing production design work, and a fabulous soundtrack that encompasses disco, punk, country and rock.
Serving up a heady combination of laugh-out-loud humour, likeable characters and powerful nostalgia, this is a treat from start to finish. One of the best films of the year.