Easygoing, nostalgic, and phenomenally plotless, Everybody Wants Some!! is an endearingly aimless time capsule masquerading as a comedy; a relaxed and raunchy college bro-down that’s remarkably wholesome; and a thoughtful, passionate artistic argument for living in the moment before the moment slips away. Smart, wise, and beautifully textured, it’s a lithe, low-pressure picture of exuberance and exciting possibility.
It’s Texas, in the fall of 1980, with less than three days before classes start. Jake (Blake Jenner) is behind the wheel and headed full steam towards that most impactful of experiences: life as a college freshman. His roommates and teammates on the fictional Southeast Texas Cherokees baseball team are a varied bunch: the loquacious flirt Finnegan (a scene-stealing Glen Powell), the philosophical stoner Willoughby (a memorable Wyatt Russell), and the fantastically-named McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), perhaps a tribute to Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s McLovin from 2007’s Superbad.
There’s hardly anything that constitutes a narrative, but the bare-bones description is that Jake and his buddies are determined to make the most of the time they have left before the severe responsibilities of college sink in come Monday. They drink, party, and go dancing, migrating from a local disco to a western-themed bar (look for a rousing rendition of “Cotton Eyed Joe”) and finally to a punk concert. Jake also meets and connects with spirited theatre arts major Beverly (a fabulous, breakout-making Zoey Deutch). In between, Jake and the boys engage in everything from mattress surfing to mud wrestling.
Everybody Wants Some!! has been dubbed a “spiritual sequel” to writer-director Richard Linklater’s 1993 classic Dazed and Confused. It’s hard to believe that 23 years have passed since we were introduced to Wooderson and Fred O’Bannion, but the film had a pitch-perfect sense of tone and camaraderie that made it seem timeless. (Matthew McConaughey’s unforgettable quote “That’s what I like about these high school girls; I get older, they stay the same age” has likely been repeated hundreds of times in circles across North America.) Its scope – covering athletes and assholes, geeks and dweebs and stoners – was breathtaking.
Linklater is obsessed with time and its passing, and incorporates a literal ticking clock as the weekend disappears and Monday morning approaches. Everybody Wants Some!! nestles comfortably into a filmography dedicated to cornerstone periods in a person’s life. His works could almost be stitched together to encompass the first half on earth: Boyhood (childhood through high school), Dazed and Confused (last days of high school), Everybody Wants Some!! (first days of college), Before Sunrise (the promise of one’s early 20s), Before Sunset (the professionalism of one’s early 30s), Before Midnight (the disillusionment of middle age).
Another theme on full display is Linklater’s penchant for killer soundtracks. Kicking things off with The Knack’s “My Sharona”, Linklater also includes songs from Stiff Little Fingers, Cheap Trick, and The Sugar Hill Gang, as well as the title track from Van Halen. And Linklater has a few tricks up his sleeve: while Jake and Beverly’s later scenes don’t quite reach the magic of Jesse and Celine’s European strolls, their loose-limbed, laid-back chemistry is charming and undeniable, especially during an early morning swim. And in addition to Deutch’s adorably quirky charisma, the gorgeous Madison Burge imbues a throwaway one-night stand with spark and sparkle.
Linklater’s films are rarely tense or tightly crafted (the immaculately-paced Sunset is still best described as “leisurely”), but he is a master at building lived-in environments – halls that look like our high schools, parties that feel like the ones we attended last weekend – and populating them with people both real and fascinating. Everybody Wants Some!! is deceptively deep for a movie about baseball bros trying to get laid. It actually improves over the course of its running time, as the characters evolve from sources of irritation to sources of affection. The comedic set pieces, like one at an Oz costume party, register strongly, and the quiet moments resonate even more so.
Linklater knows how to fashion a “hang-out” movie and still infuse it with depth and insight. It’s a rare talent for a filmmaker, and an underappreciated one. If Everybody Wants Some!! is not quite top-tier Linklater, suffering from an over-confident lead, a shortage of female characters, and a narrower range than its original inspiration, it’s still pretty awesome, and hard proof that Linklater remains the king of American independent cinema.