Everybody Wants Some!!
Richard Linklater has had a long and storied career that started back in the 1980s, but it was his 1993 film Dazed and Confused that truly put him on the map. The film focuses on high school kids in the mid-1970s celebrating the last day of school by following them on their adventures and exploits into the early hours on one eventful night. Critics praised the movie for its ability to delve into the small slice of Americana while blending it with arguably the greatest compilation film soundtrack of all time. In the decades since, Linklater has gone on to direct a slew of films across a wide range of genres: from family-friendly comedy to heavy drama, from quirky and off-beat thrillers to mind-bending visual experiences. His last film, 2014's Boyhood, garnered some of the best critical response of his career, and we as a collective filmgoing community have been waiting with bated breath for his follow-up effort.
Everybody Wants Some!! centers on Jake (Blake Jenner), a freshman pitcher heading to college on a baseball scholarship, following him for the three days before classes begin as he attempts to integrate himself not only with the collegiate lifestyle but also the extreme personalities of his teammates and the party-hard lifestyle that they embody. The crew hits different bars every night with the sole objective of finding a girl to bed for the evening. Despite the seemingly loose and lackadaisical attitude the rest of his teammates have towards the women on campus, Jake begins to pine after a young woman named Beverly (Zoey Deutch), whom he meets just after his arrival.
Linklater has stated that this film serves as something of a spiritual sequel to the aforementioned Dazed and Confused. A spiritual sequel does not necessarily directly follow its "predecessor;" rather, it generally has been made by the same filmmaker and shares common themes and ideas. In that sense, Everybody Wants Some!! definitely flows in the same vein as Linklater's 1993 flick. Interestingly enough, Linklater's latest also works as a pseudo-follow-up to Boyhood, which ends with its protagonist on the cusp of starting his collegiate journey. Despite these connections, Everybody definitely deserves to be treated as its own film, especially considering we don't have any direct correlation to the director's previous works. It has been years since I have seen Dazed and Confused, and while I remember greatly enjoying it, I would have to go back and revisit it to remember completely just how strong a film it is. That being said, Everybody Wants Some!! gives the the drive to want to do just that.
For all of you fans of storyline and plot, I am giving you fair warning: this movie doesn't revolve around its settings and situation in order to advance itself; rather, it drives with full force on the stunning characterizations that bring each and every individual to life. In a way, Everybody works as a shallow character study that lets you observe the lives of a group of young men simply trying to sow their seed. The screenplay enhances this by working more as a series of vignettes highlighting key moments in Jake's first days on campus rather than offering a plotted narrative meant to keep you guessing from scene to scene. I used the term shallow earlier not in the derogatory sense but rather in the idea that we get enough information about each character to feel as though they could truly exist, but we're never really scratching far enough beneath the surface to understand their every want and desire. Just as Jake is getting to know the men and women who will shape his first year of college, we too receive just enough information to establish opinions about who we may want to gravitate towards as our story continues.
Linklater has long been a gifted screenwriter, and that streak continues here. Still, a writer needs a stellar cast to bring their characters to life, and our man at the helm gets just that with Everybody Wants Some!! If you think about films revolving around freshman starting their college careers, you probably envision a string of films focusing on shy and quirky characters trying to find their footing in this new adult world. This movie strays from the status quo, offering a leading man whose few minor insecurities pale in comparison to his extreme self-confidence. Blake Jenner brings a comedic gravitas to the role so steadfast that it helps to amplify the eccentricities of the characters flowing around him. He creates a grounded individual that shines amongst the wacky and sometimes insane antics put forth by the rest of the male cast.
Jenner's co-stars do a solid job playing up those eccentricities to round out the quirkiness of their characters. Glen Powell, J. Quinton Johnson, and Tyler Hoechlin serve as the most consistent standouts in the supporting cast, bringing the best performances and the most laughs throughout the course of the film. The aforementioned Deutch also does a fine job opposite Jenner, and the two have a fantastic chemistry that leaves you wanting to know more about their eventual possible relationship. The character I will remember most, however, is Will Brittain's Beuter, a down-home Southern boy who's trying to keep things going with his girl back home. I have never seen any of Brittain's other work, but here he channels a young Matthew McConaughey, mimicking the Oscar winner's voice and demeanor to a tee. At the start, it was a tad bit distracting, but it proved to be a fun one regardless. In a way, it felt like the strongest direct connection to Dazed and Confused.
Although I'm by no means an expert in the realm of music, I do have to say that Linklater has done another fantastic job in creating a compilation soundtrack for this film. Just like Dazed and Confused brought us back to the 1970s, Everybody gives us a glimpse into the transition from those tunes to the sounds that would permeate the collective consciousness of the 1980s. The film features music from a slew of artists from the era, and the soundtrack immediately thrusts us into the appropriate vibe. While I wouldn't quite say that Linklater reaches the heights of Scorsese or Tarantino when it comes to musical selection, he very well might be running a slightly-distant third.
Films about college have been released in a steady stream over the past few decades, but since the turn of the millennium, many of them have focused more on the raunch-com style that has grown to be the industry standard in today's comedic world. Everybody, on the other hand, turns back the clock and channels a more subdued idea of comedy that works wonders in contrast to the big-budget fare we get nowadays. It shows a refreshing level of restraint that most comedies simply cannot or will not strive to create. Imagine National Lampoon's Animal House with more intelligent humor, well-written characters, and legitimate depth. That's exactly what Everybody Wants Some!! brings to the table.