Everybody Wants Some!! review: Spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused


Three things come to mind when you think of writer/director Richard Linklater: he understands youth, he knows how people talk and he has a firm grasp of time and place. Fortunately, and impressively, he combines all three of these qualities perfectly in Everybody Wants Some!! (Yes, two exclamation points!!), a new film that’s being described as the spiritual successor to the classic 1993 stoner comedy Dazed and Confused.

Linklater’s not so much a storyteller as he is an exhibitor of life and he understands completely the behaviour of people, or at least white, middle-class Americans, at different points along the road that starts at birth and ends at death. He tackled ‘carefree’ adolescence in the ’70s in Dazed, idealistic young love in the ’90s in Before Sunrise, the struggles of married life in the 2010s in Before Midnight and even boyhood in its entirety in, you guessed it, Boyhood. Utilizing a documentarian’s keen observational skills and a showman’s ability to engage his audience, he nails the portrayal of each aspect of life and every time period he covers. And with his latest film focusing on college kids in the ’80s, in a way an extension of both Dazed and Boyhood, he gets it right yet again.

Everybody Wants Some!! follows a group of baseball players in the Fall of 1980 in the week leading up to the first day of university. (We see a ticker at the bottom of the screen periodically which feels like some kind of doomsday clock). In particular, we see the events through the eyes of freshman pitcher, Jake, played by the handsome and talented newcomer, Blake Jenner. The film starts with Jake moving into the house he’ll be sharing with his teammates, and it meanders pleasantly from there. No one’s ever accused Linklater’s movies of being heavy on plot. In some cases, it’s non-existent. This is one such case.

But, to hell with it!! Life doesn’t follow a formula that includes sharp turning points and a denouement. It’s composed of unspectacular stretches mixed with an occasional memorable moment. That’s not to say the film is boring. On the contrary, Linklater finds the beauty in normalcy. Most movies can’t get away with having no real narrative through line, but Linklater is that rare filmmaker whose dialogue is so engrossing and whose characters are so relatable that we can forgive him and just enjoy the ride.

Virtually all the characters are the baseball players, decked out in typical ’80s ringer t-shirts, short shorts or tight jeans, long hair and bad mustaches. Their goal? Why, the goal of most college-aged men: have sex, drink beer and try to one-up friends at every turn. Linklater knows that competition is so prevalent in that demographic and, perhaps, even crucial to the development of young men. It’s not just a gauge of self-worth but a type of bonding ritual. These guys compete over women, over team positions and, why not, in games of knuckle bashing. One player even shows off by using an axe as a baseball bat. Righteous!!

But these young men aren’t just meatheads getting hammered and talking about sports. While there’s plenty of that, they also display a wide range of personality traits, opinions and emotions. They sound and act like real human beings. Their macho exteriors don’t drown out their insecurities and insight into their own lives and surroundings. Admittedly, Linklater’s characters are prone to display an arguably unrealistic amount of insight with themes too obviously announced in their dialogue. But this is a rare occurrence and I suppose we can all get a little philosophical at times, especially when weed is in the mix. Nonetheless, there is no dull or clichéd character in the bunch and the surprisingly talented cast of mostly unknowns help make these characters so complex and realistic.

Even Jake, who seems like the stereotypical everyman, often surprises us and transcends that label.  Yes, he’s the new guy, but he’s not a timid kid who’s unworthy of his cool teammates until he proves himself with one big display of skill, strength or courage. Likewise, the romance that develops between Jake and Beverly (Zoey Deutch), a cute, slightly awkward performing arts major, isn’t bogged down with the same tired problems every rom-com couple must face. You root for them because they are likable people, not because the traditions of the medium demand it.

We also root for the characters because, like us, they’re trying to figure out who they are. The concept of identity is a recurring Linklater theme. That said, the time and place of this film are perfect. College kids are always trying to find themselves and the movie’s even set at a time that saw a sort of cultural identity crisis. Whereas Dazed and Confused showcased an exceptional soundtrack of primarily rock hits, this film includes the rock, but also pop, rap, new wave and country tunes, still a great soundtrack, but clearly less defined. Even the players go from a disco to a country bar to a punk rock show all in one weekend. Yet, they try to make the most of it, fit in and have a blast.

You’ll also have a blast watching this movie. There’s not a dull scene or exchange within and it’s often laugh-out-loud funny. Hell, it’s literally and figuratively one big party!! It’ll make the people who grew up at that time feel nostalgic and yearn for the old days. And, although these boys can be crude and immature and just plain jerks at times, you know they’re good guys deep down who’ll have your back in a heartbeat… though, maybe after an initiation or two. I understand these characters. I went to school with these characters. And, of course, I wanted to party with these characters. If you’re like me, you’ll want to jump through that screen and party with them too!!

Facebook Comments