Touted as a spiritual sequel to 1993’s Dazed And Confused, Richard Linklater’s semi-autobiographical Everybody Wants Some!! pretty much picks up at the point in teenage life where the earlier film ended; there’s a gap of five years or so between the two periods depicted and the characters are different, but the tone is similar and Linklater has again cast a number of unknown or barely-known actors. Where the mid-70’s-set Dazed And Confused ended with several high school seniors about to enjoy their summer – and heading off on the open road to pick up Aerosmith tickets – the 1980-set Everybody Wants Some!! begins with main protagonist Jake (Blake Jenner) college-bound and pumping The Knack’s My Sharona through his car stereo; a clear and intended segue between the two movies. He’s a pitcher with a university baseball scholarship, and he’s placed into one of two ‘baseball’ houses that are next door to one another, sharing with the other members of the college team. Some, like Jake, are freshmen, while those with a year or two of college experience under their belts aggressively attempt to assert their dominance over the new kids. We’re introduced to a dozen or so of these characters in a breathless opening passage, and though it’s initially confusing each one is distinguishable enough via personality traits or their appearance, becoming fairly familiar soon thereafter.
What we have here is a fraternity-style college comedy, though given the writer/director involved it’s no surprise that it’s a cut above most of the films you’ll find lurking within such a genre. The timeline covers the first weekend before classes begin, and there’s plenty of booze and drugs and partying and the kind of behaviour that seems wild or silly at the time, but Linklater’s focus on machismo, competitiveness and male insecurity lends a little heft to a film that would otherwise be nothing more than an entertaining but throwaway callback to the post-Animal House era. As Jake and co get to know one another their interractions are full of putdowns, insults, tricks and refusals to back down, while their desire to best one another at any sport or game (knuckle-rapping, aggressive darts, table tennis, baseball, etc.) is an amusing and sharply-observed skewering of a particularly masculine character trait. Of course not everyone in college is a jock with an iron will to win, and Linklater knows full well that not every jock matches the stereotype of bullying, heavy-drinking sexist either. Some of the characters in Everybody Wants Some!! fit that bill, as one or two did in Dazed And Confused, but it’s when the differences between the guys begin to manifest that things get interesting. Jake goes along with some of the bullying (particularly of his less-intelligent roommate), but Linklater and his lead are determined to imbue him with a softer, quieter side, which captures the attention of the film’s only female character of note, Beverly (Zoey Deutch). Elsewhere within Jake’s house there are certain other characters who stray far enough from the stereotypical jock model, such as Wyatt Russell’s Californian stoner, Temple Baker’s affable dumbass and Glen Powell’s entertaining guru-like bullshit merchant (this film could provide a springboard for Powell’s career in much the same way that Dazed And Confused did for Matthew McConaughey’s). Their various individual leanings are complemented by some material about the common practice of picking an off-the-shelf identity upon arrival at college (Kerouac-reading pipe smoker, punk, theatrical outsider, etc) and they shift chameleon-like between certain social groups accordingly. A few of the more alpha, aggressive characters also make an impression, such as Tyler Hoechlin’s swaggering and unpleasant team captain, Ryan Guzman’s second-in-command prettyboy and Juston Street’s amusingly over-the-top potential psychopath.
Linklater films most of the women on campus as sex objects – which is how his characters view them as they cruise past in their cars – directing the camera toward their backsides. The discussions about women that these men enter into can be described as ‘unreconstructed’ at best, and spending time listening to their constant bragging and pick-up lines begins to wear thin over the course of the four evenings depicted. Deutch’s appearances in the film are fleeting until the final act, when extended conversational scenes between her character and Jake serve as a breath of fresh air after all the bro-bonding and sexism that has gone on. However, I don’t want to give the impression that sitting through the laddish behaviour that colours the majority of the film is a chore. Linklater brings warm-hearted, effervescent exuberance to the nightclub and party scenes, which are a whirl of amusingly-choreographed disco dancing, bucking broncos, downed drinks, punk moshing, and more. There are a number of highly enjoyable and utterly disposable scenes that do paint some of the guys in a slightly better light, too, such as the one in which five of them sing Rapper’s Delight as they roll around campus (a throwaway moment that left me smiling as much as I did when Wayne, Garth and friends took on Bohemian Rhapsody all those years ago); all of which is to say there are scenes here that I’d run a mile from in real life, and a few that I’d quite happily be a part of.
Like Dazed And Confused it’s the little details that inform the milieu: the lingering, lusty shots of cars, the sighting of a Reagan/Bush banner, the brief discussions about or references to bands of the era, the vinyl, and the clothes and physical features of the characters, which make some of them look as though they’ve just stepped off a gay porn shoot. In fact there’s an in-the-closet undercurrent throughout the film, manifest through the way some of the characters initiate awkward physical contact, and also the fact that one or two are clearly trying to cover-up their sexuality by over-emphasising their (fabricated) experiences with women. There’s much more going on in Linklater’s latest than your average college frat comedy, but it’s also quite successful as one of those too, so it’s like you’re watching a film in a bizarre alternate universe in which a stoner Whit Stillman has written Porky’s. The Texan director is at his best when dealing with teenage growing pains – though fans of the Before series may argue otherwise – and although Everybody Wants Some!! is unlikely to be remembered quite as fondly as its mid-70s spiritual predecessor, there’s still plenty of fun to be had as Linklater lets his film meander in a similar fashion.
Directed by: Richard Linklater.
Written by: Richard Linklater.
Starring: Blake Jenner, Glen Powell, Tyler Hoechlin, Quinton Johnson, Zoey Deutch, Temple Baker, Ryan Guzman, Wyatt Russell, Will Brittain, Forrest Vickery, Tanner Kalina, Austin Amelio, Juston Street.
Cinematography: Shane F. Kelly.
Editing: Sandra Adair.
Running Time: 117 minutes.