Everybody Wants Some
Among Dazed and Confused’s many qualities is something that trumps simple watchability. No matter how many times I’ve seen it (I would estimate around 20 at this point), I truly feel like it might go on forever. The film has the same act structure, arcs and narrative beats as you would expect from any movie, but it’s so slack and loveable that, even as I see the end coming as I have 20-ish times prior, I find myself disappointed that it’s over.
This is not a negligible talent for a filmmaker to have, yet I’ve waited patiently as Richard Linklater makes every kind of movie possible while studiously avoiding this prodigious talent he has. Linklater finally taps into his gift at “hangout movies” (as Quentin Tarantino has unimaginatively dubbed them) with Everybody Wants Some!!, a somewhat autobiographical look at a college baseball team in 1980.
Due to overcrowding in the dorms, the direction of a Texas college has opted to put up its baseball team in old houses in town. Freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) arrives in a world with a poorly defined hierarchy and a constant, all-consuming desire to party from the guys, which include charismatic sage Finnegan (Glen Powell), stoner Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), slow-witted good ol’ boy Beuter (Will Brittain), slightly-psychotic Jay (Juston Street) and the only traditionally jockish one of the bunch, the good-natured but somewhat single-minded Roper (Ryan Guzman). It’s three days to the start of class and the parties are happening; despite the baseball team’s relative popularity with the ladies on campus, it’s a performing arts major named Beverly (Zoey Deutch) who catches Jake’s eye.
And that’s about it for plot. The guys fuck around, watch soaps, drink beers, play ping-pong, go to the disco, go to a country bar, go to a punk club, go to some parties, get wasted, go swimming, and so on. Linklater is very much concerned with the transformative power of college, that tiny new bit of adult life that tells you that there’s more to life than being the best baseball player in your podunk town.
Instead of vilifying athletes as the one-dimensional “villains” they often tend to be, Linklater depicts them as a multicultural hodge-podge of guys from different backgrounds with different interests and goals. It’s intimated by many of them that they wouldn’t be able to be at college if they weren’t good at baseball — but that they’re only good enough to play college baseball, which makes their four years there somewhat bittersweet.
Linklater sometimes struggles with tone; some of the supporting characters skew a little broad, whether it be the hyper-driven, hyper-aggressive Jay moving from eccentric to cartoonish or the stonerish Willoughby extolling the virtues of progressive rock in a pseudo-philosophical way that recalls the worst aspects of Boyhood. But Linklater has always had a great feel for organic characters and particularly for organic relationships, and that’s really all Everybody Wants Some!! is: two hours of organic relationships between dudes who feel real. Anyone can tell you that not everyone who’s good at sports is some kind of privileged date-rapist with a pink sweater tied around his neck and a house in the Hamptons, but to see that reflected in a movie in 2016 (one that sets itself in the heyday of dumbshit boner jam comedies, no less) feels revelatory.
Linklater himself was a college baseball player in the same period in Huntsville, Texas, which obviously informs the nostalgic tone of the film, but it never really becomes that kind of movie that revels in its “remember this?!” instincts. The film is papered wall-to-wall with period pop hits, moustaches, tight jeans, feathered mullets and crop-top jerseys but it feels organic rather than costumey.
Everybody Wants Some!! is obviously coloured heavily by Linklater’s own memories, but it presents a gentle, genial take on the much-maligned “bro comedy” that argues that there is such a thing as non-toxic masculinity. It may be entirely coincidental that Linklater got around to making it now, in a climate where “boys will be boys” rears its ugly head every day, but it’s a welcome change. ■
Everybody Wants Some! opens at the Cineplex Forum Cinemas (2313 Ste-Catherine W.) on Friday, April 8. Watch the trailer here: