Everybody Wants Some!! is Richard Linklater’s self-described spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, and, somewhat miraculously, the spirit has remained intact.
It’s been 13 years from one to the other: long enough to literally watch a boy grow up. But between the ’70s high-school graduation of Dazed and the first college days of the 1980-set Everybody Wants Some!! it feels like hardly a summer has passed. We left off with Foghat’s “Slow Ride”; we pick up with the Knack’s “My Sharona.”
The song’s thumping bass, which opens the film, is an early signal (if the double exclamation points didn’t already give it away) of the exuberance to come in Everybody Wants Some!!, Linklater’s marvelously loose and affectionately antic portrait of college life. It’s a chapter that Linklater’s Boyhood never got to. But it’s rendered here with the same attention to the rhythms of youth and the in-between moments the director has long been drawn to.
But unlike Boyhood, it also has bong hits, disco dancing and sex — lots of it. It’s a laid back Animal House, with shots of philosophy mixed in.
Jake Bradford (Blake Jenner) is a freshman baseball pitcher who arrives in September 1980 at Southeast Texas University, where he moves in with his future teammates and fraternity brothers. Bros are not the most loved of college types, but Linklater’s frat guys, aside from being competitive, womanizing boozehounds, are mostly clever, curious and likable.
Just as with Dazed, Linklater has assembled a strong ensemble of young, promising actors. They include the mustachioed star senior Glenn (Tyler Hoechlin), the philosophizing chatterbox Finn (a tremendous Glen Powell) and the bearded stoner transfer from California, Willoughby (Wyatt Russell). Jake easily and confidently joins them as they bounce from nightclub to nightclub, and prowl the parking lots for women.
There isn’t much tension in the mild and innocent Everybody Wants Some!! (nor is there any political correctness or sexual assault). The guys of the movie are all eagerness and appetite, with their lives ahead of them. Though the team is nationally ranked and they take their sport seriously, professional baseball is largely an acknowledged pipe dream. Besides, there’s so much more to be excited about. Every night is a different club (disco, country line dancing, punk). Books and records are passed around like joints.
A countdown to the start of classes runs throughout, but not in a foreboding way. Out of the aimlessness, a sense of purpose is growing. The world is opening up to Jake, who begins dating a theater student (Zoey Deutch).
By focusing on baseball players, Linklater has given a far tenderer, more dynamic (and largely true) picture of young male athletes than they are usually afforded. But he’s also limited his canvas compared to the more varied, crisscrossing teens of Dazed. And while the sunny and sure Jenner is winning, he’s maybe too much so. Dazed and Confused took its center from Wiley Wiggins’ timid teen, but the Jake of Everybody Wants Some!! has no anxieties to overcome; his first blush with college life is a home run.
Everybody Wants Some!! is Linklater’s self-portrait of the artist as a young frat boy. The Austin writer-director of Slacker and the Before… trilogy went to college on a baseball scholarship before segueing into playwriting.
His light touch remains a marvel. Though his characters are often just bouncing from conversation to conversation, night out to night out, the film’s direction is never lackadaisical. The performances are uncommonly natural. Scenes that play out through car windows, over foosball tables or between bong hits are buoyant, funny and meaningful. Though stuffed with ’80s details and a soundtrack from Van Halen to the Sugar Hill Gang, the period setting matters far less than the capturing — and appreciation — of a moment.
Like many of Linklater’s films, Everybody Wants Some!! radiates something both slight and profound. In the immortal words of David Lee Roth, “Everybody wants some. Baby, how ’bout you?”
Everybody Wants Some!! a Paramount Pictures release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “language throughout, sexual content, drug use and some nudity.” Running time: 151 minutes. Three stars out of four.