Two films take place in Richard Linklater’s newest movie Everybody Wants Some!!. One I love in all its sun soaked, musically dowsed entirety, the other had my eyes rolling into the back of my head as I grew increasingly irate by the “boys club” nature of its atmosphere. Timeless, engaging but a little rough around the edges, it’s not quite one of Linklater’s best but it’s something special.
Jake (Blake Jenner) is going into his freshman year of college and is set to live in an off-campus house with his baseball team. It’s there he meets team captain McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) who hates pitchers, the laid back Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), the earnest yet smarmy Finnegan (Glen Powell-excellent) and an ensemble of richly drawn characters who make up the rest of the team, all varying degrees of drunk, cocky and down for a good time. It’s this ensemble cast that so excellently conveys the main idea that the film is trying to sell which gets lost in the shuffle. At one point Jake is told to embrace his weirdness and run with it, a sentiment not often heard in the statuesque sports movie. This was what the film should have settled itself on, showcasing a group of eccentric personalities coming together not necessarily for the love of the sport but for the love of the team.
We’re all a little weird, and isn’t that terrific?
The main issue is one that’s been easily, almost flippantly, overlooked thus far in coverage, with the notion that the “boys will be boys” attitude of the film is purposeful. And it is, without a doubt. But considering the only female character with anything resembling substance is the sparkling Zoey Deutch as Jake’s love interest Beverly, you’d hope the way the rest of the women characters would amount to more than set decoration. The film’s nudity isn’t gratuitous because of how much there is or because how it’s shot, frankly it’s all mildly tame considering to what some television channels and movies can get away with these days. It’s gratuitous because it instantly whips you out of the film because there in front of you is a girls bare backside taking up the entirety of the frame as a young man gropes at it.
The idea is to show the young men getting to enjoy their fantasies as the women around them fall over themselves to be with them. Linklater is a talented enough filmmaker that he could have shot these scenes without objectifying the women himself. It’s a sour note in a film that’s almost overflowing with heart, a film earnest from start to finish.
The characters live and breathe by the performances and while Jenner’s Jake is flat and used more as a proxy for Linklater to push out pseudo, freshman year of college intellectual drivel out, it allows for other characters to shine around him. Hoechlin is hilarious as the immensely competitive team leader while Powell steals the show, displaying an ease with dialogue and effortless charisma, and it wouldn’t be surprising if in the next couple years he began to break out in a way Matthew McConaughey did before him.
There’s a great deal about this film worth celebrating and its charms are ones that have grown on me as time has passed since my first viewing. It’s a film that crawls under your skin, content to rest in the back of your mind for a while.
The boyish atmosphere is immediately infectious as we’re introduced to the teammates before they take off for a night of music, dancing and getting laid. The sequences involving any forms of dancing are shining ones, whether the music is disco, country or punk, these characters wear the roles as if they’re playing dress up, all a part of their sportsman-like routine. They don’t really care who they are partying with as long as they’re having a good time. The film meticulously captures the era the story takes place on, but does so in a casual moment, as if Linklater just so happened to take a candid snapshot of a cherished, carefree moment in time. He’s granted us access to step through the photo and experience this brief instance where everything and everyone aligned and youthful exuberance reigned. From the late mornings, early afternoon wake up calls, the hazy, marijuana inspired conversations about nothing, to the persistent competitive nature that keeps the characters on their toes, there’s no question that Linklater drew strongly from personal memory.
Boyhood was a film that touched so many of us because it tapped into our own nostalgia, from game boys to Harry Potter midnight gatherings to wide, desktop computers that as kids we used to frustratingly work on math problems with, it was our youth captured in time. Everybody Wants Some!! is a hazy memory, one that’s punctuated by the good times, the moments that stick out to you when you look back at your life so far and think of the highlights which explains the almost romanticized touch to everything the characters do. There’s real, tangible affection for these characters and for the ideology of teamwork. Everybody Wants Some!! doesn’t touch the masterpieces that are Boyhood or the “Before” trilogy but it’s not aiming to be. Instead, we’re getting a peak into someone’s history, the music they listened to and the games that they played and it’s honest, playful and spirited in its depiction of the college bound off to discover what they love most in the world, whatever the hell that might be.
Everybody Wants Some!! is out in a limited release now.