Film Review: Everybody Wants Some!!

Richard Linklater’s cumulatively blissful 1980 college comedy tells an authentic story set in familiar territory. With charm and a laid-back attitude, it seizes wit and wisdom in carefree moments of youth.
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Everybody Wants Some!! might be billed as a spiritual followup to Richard Linklater’s 1993-made, 1976-set high-school movie Dazed and Confused. But the writer-director’s latest—taking place in 1980 at a fictional Texan college—feels more like an instinctive, alternate-time-period and universe follow up to his 12-year-long labor of love, Boyhood. As an affectionate, judgment-free portrait of a freewheeling college world, philosophically wrapped up in the final words of the blissfully high Mason of Boyhood (“It’s like, it’s always right now,” to refresh your memory), the joyous and shrewdly funny Everybody Wants Some!! illustrates and unhurriedly pulls one into the very notion of living in the moment. In this familiar yet still thoroughly fresh artistic endeavor that earns its double exclamation points with steady awesomification (an attempt to conjugate a word like the cool kids in the film would), it is indeed “the moment that seizes us.” You just need to allow yourself to move along with the film’s leisurely rhythm.

Admittedly, finding the same wavelength with Everybody Wants Some!! might not be instantly achievable for some. Yet the ride will be pure pleasure once you get your sea legs in Linklater’s recognizable universe of wise musings hidden inside deceptively small talk. Like Dazed and Confused—set on the final day of a Texan high school’s classes—the film is structured as an ongoing countdown where the tick of the clock is ever-present over the three days the story covers. Unlike Dazed and Confused, this countdown is not towards freedom but the first day of classes, where each moment of the final 72 hours of total independence must be spent with purpose.

In the case of a group of baseball jocks sharing a very rundown house on campus, the purpose is as simple as attending parties, engaging in deep, highly (and lowly) philosophical chats and, well, getting laid. It’s easy to prematurely write off Everybody Wants Some!!, with the assumption that we’re in the presence of just another group of mindless jocks who sport and take pride in their toxic masculinity, but to do so would be to disregard who Linklater is as a writer. Thus, soon enough, his characters prove to be free of poison and full of worthy charm, intriguing appeal and, above all, an appetite to learn and experience (mostly outside the classroom walls). Everybody Wants Some!! proves only a storyteller as observant, subtle and conscientious as Linklater can pinpoint exactly what makes this group of men infinitely likeable.

We mainly follow the newbie freshman Jake Bradford (an inarguably lovable Blake Jenner) throughout the three days, as he steps into the (somewhat dangerously) neglected house with severe structural problems. Spoiler: The house doesn’t come crumbling down, and neither does his world. Pioneer turntables, handsome Marantz amplifiers, waterbeds and shorter-than-necessary shorts of the period decorate common areas, bedrooms and hallways. We quickly learn Jake’s position as a “pitcher” is one that is disliked and lightly disrespected by his teammates, made up of some very distinct personalities—like senior and team leader McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), his roommate Roper (Ryan Guzman), the charismatic and slick Finnegan (Glen Powell, perhaps the most memorable of the bunch), the pot-smoking Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), the volatile Jay Niles (Juston Street) and the well-mannered Bill Autry (Will Brittain), whom his friends inexplicably insist on calling “Beuter Perkins” despite all his courteous protests. Taken under the wings of his more experienced teammates who appoint themselves with the task of showing him the ropes, Jake drives around the campus, attends various parties (no surprise that the varied soundtrack is terrific, from its disco tracks to honky-tonk tunes) and leads us through the escalating craziness, making his youthful awakening our very own.

The introduction of theatre major Beverly (an enchanting Zoey Deutch, with an uncanny resemblance to her mother, Lea Thompson) immediately injects Everybody Wants Some!! with well-timed new blood and elevates it to a new, more grownup level, with touches of Linklater’s Before movies shining through the conversations and quality time she shares with Jake. All the while, we catch sight of leftover effects of the late ’70s in the hair and fashion, captured believably by costume designer Kari Perkins before shoulders widened and cuts became visibly baggier later into the ’80s.

At the end of the three days, you can’t help but wonder if any one of the characters would learn or experience anything as valuable or expanding as they did throughout the film’s rich yet lean story that never overstays its welcome. As is the case with Linklater’s strongest work, Everybody Wants Some!! uncovers strokes of genius in the ordinary, and a sense of exhilaration in the mundane.

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