A guide to Richard Linklater
Known for his precise depictions of life in 1970s and 80s suburban America, loose narrative structure and unparalleled coming-of-age dramas, Richard Linklater is a household name in 21st Century filmmaking.
The Texas native began making short films in the late 80s after quitting his job on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico; his (incredibly difficult to find) first feature 'It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books' allowed Linklater to fund his second, and far more successful, feature Slacker.
Now, almost 15 years later and with five Academy Award nominations under his belt, Linklater has directed a total of 18 feature films; his latest work Everybody Wants Some!! was released a month ago here in the UK and has opened to generally positive reviews. “But where am I to begin with such an expanse of movies?” I hear you cry. Well read on and fear not, as we give you a brief guide to the films of Richard Linklater…
There is no easy way of describing the plot of Slacker as, quite simply, it doesn’t have one. The audience is taken on a trip of Linklater’s hometown as the camera glides from character to character, catching snippets of conversations and witnessing chance events, but never outstaying its welcome. Widely regarded as one of the best independent features of the 1990s, the tiny $23,000 movie grossed over $1.2million and propelled Linklater into the spotlight. Whilst it isn’t the most accessible film in the world, Slacker will give you a taste of Linklater’s originality and vision; this was a bold piece of work by the young filmmaker, and a sign of things to come.
Dazed & Confused (1994)
Following this I suggest you watch Dazed & Confused, an ode to Linklater’s formative years at high school; we follow freshmen and seniors alike as they course their way through their final day of school, concluding with a huge keg party, stoned revelations about George Washington and the desperate hunt for Aerosmith tickets. Despite living on different side of the globe and graduating from school 35 years after the film is set, Linklater nails the feeling of 70s America by focussing on precise details spanning from the handpicked soundtrack to pin-sharp costume design. Also, keep your eyes peeled for performances from a young Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey, alright, alright, alright?
School of Rock (2004)
When the words “Jack Black” are said aloud, many people, myself included, immediately think of struggling rocker Dewey Finn (or is it Ned Shneebly?), but few people realise that School of Rock is directed by a certain Mr. Linklater. The film follows Dewey’s attempts to recruit an elite prep-school class into forming a rock band and entering a Battle of the Bands competition – helmed by a career-best performance from Black and anchored by Linklater’s signature catchy soundtrack choice. This is easily one of my favourite childhood movies. School of Rock is a genuinely sweet film to be savoured by kids and parents alike.
2014’s cinematic behemoth and global smash-hit Boyhood is arguably Linklater’s magnum opus. Its infamous twelve year shooting process seemed like a gimmick when on first hearing about it, but the humble, sprawling story eventually won over my heart and soul. Linklater’s tale of a young boy growing up flows like an unbroken stream of ribbon throughout the 2 hour 39 minute runtime, and it never begins to get tiresome or repetitive – a feat worthy of only a master storyteller. If you only see one film from this short list it must be Boyhood; this is one of the greatest films of the 21st Century, made by an incredibly important voice in modern filmmaking. The ultimate ‘coming-of-age’ movie.
Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
Starting at the exact point Boyhood ends, although 30 years earlier, and described as a ‘spiritual sequel’ to Dazed & Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! certainly has a lot to live up to. Linklater’s latest offering returns to a lighter, comedic tone as it follows a college baseball team’s last few days of freedom before class starts. Again, it is the attention to detail that reigns in this movie, the infamous ‘Twilight Zone’ scene almost appears to be cherry-picked from the director’s own memory. Featuring an impressive cast of characters and a rose-tinted view of the 80s, this film serves as a reminder that we should be “here for a good time, not a long time."