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'Everybody Wants Some!!' Is a Crash Course of Self-discovery and Independence

Richard Linklater's spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused hits the '80s with a little education and a lot of partying: self-discovery lies somewhere between.


Everybody Wants Some!!

Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Blake Jenner, Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, Tyler Hoechlin, Will Brittain, Juston Street, Ryan Guzman, Wyatt Russell, Quinton Johnson, Forrest Vickery
Distributor: Paramount
Rated: R
Release date: 2016-07-12

It’s been over two decades since Dazed and Confused burst onto the scene, breaking in several future stars and emerging as a cultural touchstone in the process. A film that instantly raises smiles when mentioned in conversation, it not only showcases Richard Linklater’s stylistic strengths, it also touches on the two key themes that mark much of his work. Whether it’s in his high school opus, the Before trilogy, Boyhood or even the likes of A Scanner Darkly, the inevitable passage of time and the moments that help to define personal identity come up again and again.

The same is true for Everybody Wants Some!!, billed as a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused. The action moves into 1980 and upwards in the education system to College. Not that an actual college appears for long. Taking place exclusively over the weekend before term starts, it follows freshman pitcher Jake Bradford (Blake Jenner) as he arrives on a baseball scholarship to meet his teammates, prep for the start of term, and get ready for the inevitable step-up from high school.

In this, Jake echoes Linklater’s own beginnings where he too played baseball at college before life took him off in other directions. Discovering those directions seems to be very much the point of his new film. That and a lot of partying. An almost exclusively male film, Everybody Wants Some!! rounds up a new collection of largely unknown actors to fill the team. Alongside Jake, other notable characters include philosophical lothario Finnegan (Glen Powell), ultra-competitive team captain Glen McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), ridiculed country boy Billy Autrey (Will Brittain) -- dubbed Beuter Perkins much to his chagrin -- and team lunatic Jay Niles (Juston Street): constantly bigging up the speed of his fastball and liable to burst into spontaneous violence because he is, in his own words, a “raw dog.” There are plenty of others hanging around as well: some freshman like Jake, others veterans, and all determined to get drunk, get laid, and hopefully win the championship.

Time is mostly spent following them about as they head to clubs (the fashionable options are disco venue The Sound Machine and a cowboy hat wearing, straw chewing, country music hotspot), throw a wild party, engage in endless competitions, bicker, and attempt to hit on any woman that comes within range, all before term has even commenced.

Linklater has a wonderful ability to intricately control every aspect of his films while managing to give them a loose, natural feel. Early on he has several of the team singing along in unison to The Sugarhill Gang as they cruise the streets, apparently spontaneously, yet careful cuts give off a music video vibe. The same goes for many of the flowing conversations that unfurl. Rigged to feel off the cuff, they discuss everything from astrology to penis size, and yet never go on too long or stumble into the mundane no matter how ordinary the subject matter. The guys seem to be having a hell of a time, and this approach, at once intimately fly-on-the-wall and cleverly choreographed, bursts from the screen. Make no mistake, this is an entertaining film. For sheer fun, little else has come close this year.

The details help as well. Unsurprisingly, a killer soundtrack finds regular use. The opening scene says it all in this regard. Driving down the highway, Jake is gunning his car towards college, with records stacked up in the back while “My Sharona” booms from the car stereo. From there, music is rarely absent for long as a dizzying collection of rock classics cycle through. It’s not the only detail to help power the film forward. Bathed in light and obsessed with bright colors, no matter how squalid the environment these party boy jocks live in (and at times it gets pretty down and dirty), it never feels anything but fresh and exciting. The blades of grass out on the baseball field are a rich green, the sky a deep blue, and the bright polo necks and garish shirts they all wear, like something from a Gap 1980s summer revival line, keep everything light and easy.

This light and easy attitude carries over to the guys. In many ways it’s a typical college jock environment. Newcomers are there to be hazed, even if that hazing gets pretty dangerous when it includes taping them to a fence and smashing baseballs in their direction, women are there to hit on, drink must be consumed in dangerous quantities, and most of them walk around in rippling shirts and too-short shorts. Following in the footsteps of the Dazed and Confused crowd is always a tough ask, given how successful some of them were, but everyone here seems perfectly cast, falling into their roles with an ease that makes time spent in their company extremely comfortable. The stand outs are Powell who has a natural charisma that seems to draw all towards him, and Zoey Deutch who transcends her place as Beverly, token woman and love interest for Jake.

As fun as time with them is, the characters are also the weakest link. With a few exceptions, many of them lack clear distinctions, blending into the background as interchangeable jocks. They all argue in the same way, dress the same way, and compete over the same mind-numbing array of petty challenges. Aside from Jake and Beverly, the stand out leads and only ones blessed with a romantic sub-plot, and Finnegan whose high end bullshit patter proves endlessly hypnotic, it’s the weirdos that get remembered. Everyone else can step into the shoes of pretty much everyone else.

That doesn’t dilute the fun, nor does it stop Linklater reaching for something more on occasion. He throws in several conversations about the nature of competition, the importance of having something to try and excel at, and on more than one occasion, the difficulty in finding your own identity. Sometimes this becomes a little too eloquent, particularly in a speech about Sisyphus and baseball that shows off more than required, but most of the time the mix between self-discovery and partying is just about right. As McReynolds remarks after chopping a baseball in half with an axe, it’s the best day of his life: until tomorrow. They live in the moment but there’s a creeping awareness that one day that moment might end and the rest of their lives start.

McReynolds’ line stands as a pretty good breakdown of Everybody Wants Some!!’s mission statement. These kids, despite macho posturing and good time attitudes, are also slightly lost as they enter into a crash course of self-discovery and independence. Where they’ll end up is very much unknown, but the fact they’re at the start of something big comes across strongly. Held back by a few weaknesses in tone and characterization, this is still an incredibly entertaining film that manages to capture a time and place, both literally in regard to the 1980s college experience, and more obliquely when it comes to the future facing these young people. It might not be Dazed and Confused, but not much is. Again, that doesn’t stop it being the most fun to be had this year.

Everybody Wants Some!! comes in a combo pack with Blu-ray and DVD versions of the film, 25 minutes of extra footage, and a number of other small features looking behind the scenes.

8

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