Richard Linklater: Hollywood’s Most Underrated Director

By Collin Lotter

 Credit to Getty Images

Credit to Getty Images

A confession from me before we jump into the article about the greatness of Richard Linklater; This article is probably two years to late to write from a perception angle about this director. After the release of the best picture nominated drama Boyhood, the cat was out of the bag and people knew immediately that this Texas based film-maker was something special. He finally had a place in Hollywood’s award season and achieved something remarkable winning best director and best picture at the 72nd annual Golden Globes, something that was long overdue. However, I still feel compelled to write how amazing Linklater’s films are and why I truly believe the uniqueness of time placement settings and relatable characters makes his movies unforgettable each time you experience them for the first time.

This occurred personally for me once again after driving down to Austin (Linklater’s home town) to see his newest movie Everybody Wants Some!!. It was a big deal for me as I haven’t had many movie incentive road trips in my life, but I knew this was the perfect time to execute one after hearing the news that the movie was only in limited release. Admittedly I was still buzzing after Linklater’s last few years of movies, I mean what a run for him just in the last five years alone. We have had the conclusion (rumored) to the “Before Trilogy” with Before Midnight starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. He has given us the greatness of Bernie, which produced arguably Jack Black’s finest performance yet.

Finally two years ago, he struck gold with Boyhood, a methodical twelve year odyssey watching a unknown actor Ellar Coltrane grow from boy to man from the ages of 6 – 18. Boyhood rocked the cinematic landscape from a mesmerizing and curiosity direction with viewers who had never been exposed to movie that had such commitment to present a real time lapse in such a familiar way it was relatable to each and every person. Critics were buzzing about it with a near perfect rating on websites such as Rotten Tomatoes; fans were raving about it as word of mouth took over and a movie that almost wasn't made became a box office grossing success story. The questions were asked by many from all over.. “How did a director even think of presenting a movie like this?” “How did he get actors and production studios to buy into this concept with no payoff for 12 years?” Linklater was instantly a hit with people wanting more answers and more films. However, for people around Texas and his most adoring fans, we could’ve told you, he has been this way for years and it only seems to get better.

The crowd walking out of Everybody Wants Some!! was high fiving and chatting it up about how the maestro of slice of life movies was at his best again. Everybody Wants Some!! seemed like a failed proposition at its core, to try to live up to the being a loosely based sequel to Dazed and Confused, which is perhaps grew Linklater’s biggest cult following. You could already hear the negative feedback.. “Don’t try to follow this classic up!” “There will never be another “Dazed” and Wooderson character!” Wooderson being the iconic character portrayed by Matthew McConaughey launching him into super stardom. However with an director such as Linklater who is so applied to his craft, these pessimistic probably only fueled him more to create the project. 

 Credit to Getty Images

Credit to Getty Images

The movie is once again just a phenomenal film that plays on the simplistic traits of nostalgia, time and place, and most of unique relationships. Of course these characteristics are all intertwined in his films that are surrounded with catchy dialogue, banter humor, and a wonderful time period soundtrack to help; but Everybody Wants Some!! nails the formula to a T.  Blake Jenner plays a stud high school baseball pitcher who is entering his first college weekend as a wide-eyed freshman living at the baseball houses with the elder statesmen teammates. Quickly brotherhood friendships are formed, initiation hazing is featured, and the usual male college driven debauchery is derived all in one opening weekend. The acting ensemble is really strong with characters from all walks of life that are attending the SouthEast Texas University with the same goal of playing great baseball and partying. As with all of Linklater’s movies, the setting definitely plays a role in the actors dialogue and tendencies, however at the same time the story could be told in any fictional college town making it familiar to the audiences. Half way into the movie we get a little break for the fraternity feel of the movie and a love story is introduced with Jenner and Zooey Deutch, who plays a drama major student looking to draw more out of life than the ordinary college shenanigans. The two have a fun, organic romance that brings a touch of humanity to the film and a nice back and fourth for the second half of the movie.

Audiences will be sure to love this movie if they given Linklater a chance before and know what they are getting into. For myself, I never question his passion projects because you know it will deliver. Very few movie directors have the ability to make insightful films that seem any of us could encounter on our daily journeys. His movies albeit ambitious, rarely seem out of touch or over are heads and they put us in a place or time that is fun to dwell back on or allow us to be nostalgic for a few hours.   Do I think Richard Linklater could stand to get more attention in the pantheon of great filmmakers in this current generation?..... Without a Doubt! However, am I glad that Hollywood and audiences all over the world are finally starting to take notice and give the guy his due for his amazing filmography?.... 100 percent and It’s about Time!