The more films I see by him, the more I come to respect Richard Linklater as a film-maker. His eclectic film-making style and brilliant dialogue has helped create some excellent films from Boyhood to School of Rock to the Before trilogy. The film of his that keeps coming up time and again as his best though is one of his earliest films, Dazed and Confused. I won’t go in depth with my thoughts here since it’s one of my blind spot films for this year, but I do think it’s one of Linklater’s best and now we get a spiritual successor with Everybody Wants Some which, whilst not reaching the high of Dazed and Confused, is still a lot of fun.The film focuses on Jake, a university fresher who’s part of the baseball team, having been a star player at his high school, living in a house with his fellow baseball team members during the first weekend of the university year in 1980. It is overall quite hard to talk about the plot of Everybody Wants Some as there really isn’t one. The whole film is a series of conversations and parties amongst the baseball players and it’s with this element that the film shines. Speaking as someone who’s just about to finish their third year of university, this film nails the university experience. The things that you remember about your time, or as they’re termed by Andre Bazan and quoted in Waking Life holy moments, aren’t the lectures or the big moments you’re supposed to remember, it’s the little details. The conversations you have where you act more philosophical than you feel, random talks about details of pop culture, the card games with rules that seem utterly incomprehensible, these are the details that I’ll remember the most about university and it’s these details that Linklater nails and what make the university experience unique, something that some people try desperately to hold on to (the film having subtle attacks at those who want to seal themselves in their youth). If these elements had not worked in the way that they did, the film would have collapsed. The film also does a good job in exploring the nature of masculinity in the environment of the house. Whilst the presentation of the womanising ways of the men in the house gets a bit leery at times, when it focuses on the relationship between the team, this side of masculinity shines, the gentle competition, the subtle support for each other, the good natured ribbing, they aren’t harmful and help to strengthen the bonds that the team have for each other. There also feels like a sly attack on toxic masculinity in here as well through when some of the players get more aggressive and the film doesn’t shy away from how ugly and stupid this stuff is, particularly with the character of Niles, an over aggressive arse who gets the group kicked out of a disco through his aggressiveness and antagonises the rest of the team during their first practice and the other characters, and by extension the film, makes sure to condemn this aggressive, dickish behaviour, the character only becoming likeable when he drops the attitude.
In terms of the performances, the film shines. Blake Jenner does a great job as Jake, showing the fun the character experiences during the weekend and is a good anchor for the crazy, drunken events going on around him. Wyatt Russell is a lot of fun to watch as Willougby, being this films equivalent of Matthew McConaughey’s Wooderson in Dazed and Confused, with him getting some of the best lines and stealing a lot of scenes in the film. Zoey Deutch makes a great impression in her scenes, having great chemistry with Blake Jenner and their relationship feels like a microcosm of what works about the film, a bit shallow on the surface but underneath they’re more insightful and have a very similar background to each other. The rest of the cast are also a lot of fun, none of them really have enough time to become more fleshed out like the ones I mentioned but the performances from Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Will Brittain, Glen Powell, Juston Street, J. Quinton Johnson and Temple Baker add to the party vibe of the film, all of them getting some moments to shine and the chemistry between all of them helps create a strong bond between the characters.
On a production level, the film is the typical high quality you come to expect of Linklater. Every detail, from the costumes to the haircuts to the overall design of everything screams the 80s, but it’s the soundtrack where Linklater impresses. As much as Dazed and Confused represented music of the 70s, Everybody Wants Some is filled with late 70s, early 80s music of all styles ranging from Queen to Devo, Dire Straights to The Knack, Van Halen to Blondie, with this helping to create effective moods for each scene in the film, adding to the light party atmosphere of the film.
Overall, Everybody Wants Some is a lot of fun and a brilliant encapsulation of the university experience through the smaller details that most movies of this type tend to ignore. Whilst the film feels a bit leery at some points, the way the film examines masculinity and the subtle underpinnings of university life make this an incredibly engaging film. It’s not got the classic status that other Linklater films have but I had a lot of fun with it.
My Rating: 4/5