Richard Linklater, above all, is a maestro at creating characters. While you may not initially be fond of every character in Everybody Wants Some!!, you'll grow closer to each and every single one. Marketed as a spiritual sequel to the cult-classic and my all-time favorite coming-of-age film Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! comes awfully close to the heights of the 1991 masterpiece, and overall is a roaring good time. Much like Dazed, it will be a film that will develop a fervent fan-base, and one that will be watched many times over many years. Once again, Linklater treats us to a gem that will go down among the quintessential films about growing up and finding one's self.
Parties. Sex. Rock'n'roll. Weed. Baseball. In Everybody Wants Some!!, Linklater captures a group of college baseball players in 1980s Austin as they explore the first weekend prior to the start of classes. Jacob, played by Blake Jenner, serves as the main protagonist, through which we develop our own relationships with the rest of the team. A freshman pitcher who, like each of his teammates, has been used to being the star player, Jake is thrust into a world of ultra masculinity and competitiveness. Along the way, Jake discovers rowdy parties, his teammates' penchant for turning everything into a competition, and Beverly, a freshman performing arts major who is experiencing many of the same confusing emotions as Jake.
In the hands of someone other than Linklater, this film would likely have ended up as a dud, cringe-inducing fest. There is a very fine line between lovable, quirky characters, and dislikable, misogynistic schmucks. When Jacob first moves into the baseball house, one of his teammates jokes that "having sex on a waterbed is like having sex with a girl on top of another fat girl". Early on, I was apprehensive as to the tone being established. However, I should never have doubted Linklater. After just a few more scenes passed, however, I had grown to like the characters much more. Perhaps this is what Everybody Wants Some!! does best- it creates an awkward atmosphere early on, where we form our own judgements about a bunch of seemingly derelict baseball players who commit foolish act after foolish act. By the end of the film, you can't help but enjoy being around these guys.
In a fashion similar to his work in Boyhood, Linklater utilizes a protagonist that is far from the most interesting character in the movie. Similar to how Mason in Boyhood was overshadowed by his sister early in the film, and later by his mother in the role of a lifetime for Patricia Arquette, Jacob here is a detached, passive protagonist. When compared to the absolutely bizarre star pitcher Jay Niles played by Juston Street or the lovable, hilarious stoner Willoughby, played by Wyatt Russell, Jake may come across as bland. However, in essence, by watching the first days of college through the eyes of Jake, we as an audience grow and learn alongside him. Boyhood felt so powerful and touching to me because I felt as if I myself was living through those moments, and Linklater taps into that very same essence in Everybody Wants Some!!. This is Linklater's greatest virtue- the ability to allow the audience to feel as if they are a part of the world that he creates. As we watched Jesse and Celine's relationship over 18 years unfold in Linklater's Before Trilogy, we did more than observe as we felt what they felt. Through his faux documentary style in Bernie, Linklater enhanced the viewer's understanding of what it is like to breathe and live in the odd, small town of Carthage.
Thus, we ourselves become more comfortable with the shenanigans perpetrated by the baseball team. Just as Jacob felt like an outsider, failing to connect with his teammates, we also feel apprehensive towards the events unfolding onscreen. This lack of comfort is most tangible in the awkward laughs I went through. As Quinton Johnson's character Dale explains to Jake, freshmen simply have not earned the right to be teammates, and this is a process that they all have had to go through. Linklater once again touches on themes of fitting in and finding one's place in the world. These are themes not only prevalent in out of his films, but also themes that apply universally. In school, you adapt to different social groups, growing close to some while drifting away from others. In this way, Everybody Wants Some!! can be even be seen as a 'spiritual sequel' to Boyhood, which concluded with Mason moving into college, contemplating his future and the duplicitous nature of trying to seize the moment.
It is difficult to predict which actors in this film, all of whom shined brightly, will turn into stars. Nesbit, played by Austin Amelio, was my personal favorite, and wildly reminiscent of Matthew McConaughey's star-turning role in Dazed and Confused. Zoey Duestch plays Beverly, the only substantial female character in the film, and leaves her mark on the film through her wit, charm, and poise. Although the cast was led by virtually all new-comers, the acting always felt very natural. Much of the film involves partying, dancing, and having a good time. This cast and team has said they had a blast during the shoot, and that vibrant, exciting environment and chemistry certainly translated onto the screen. Linklater amplified this chemistry and overall positive vibes by utilizing a soundtrack that takes on a life of its own. As important as any character in the film, the film's soundtrack, featuring songs by the likes of Van Halen and The Sharona, captures our attention. An early scene featuring the gang singing the entirety of The Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" in one take beautifully combines the bro-ness of our characters with the music that defined a decade. Within one night, the gang goes from polysynthetic, colorful clothes, dancing to the latest pop hits, to a rodeo-inspired bar, where they dance to the ubiquitous Cotton-Eyed Joe, which can be still be heard at school and camp dance parties everywhere.
When the film ended, and the closing credits rolled, I felt incredibly sad. I simply wanted to spend more time with these characters. Linklater left me wanting more, as he only provided what was a snapshot of this team's journey. To those that say Linklater does not care about plot, they couldn't be more wrong. Linklater cares foremost about character and the expression of his characters, and leaves the way we piece together events and the plot to the viewer. Maybe Jake shines during baseball season and becomes a famous Major League Baseball pitcher. Maybe, and infinitely more likely, he struggles to adjust on a team where he is no longer the biggest badass like on his high school team, a theme touched on by both the baseball players and by Beverly. This struggle is one that many college students, athletes, and people face as they head over to conquer newer pastures. It's a growing pain of life, a pain that is captured effortlessly in Linklater's films, particularly in Everybody Wants Some!! On the outside, this film may seem only about partying and come across as shallow, but like Linklater's other classics, Everybody Wants Some!! This film may seem shallow, but like Linklater's best, is sereptiously deep and touching.
Undoubtedly, it is best to part by summing up the film through it's most apropos tagline, also uttered by a character in one of the film's more tender, emotional situations- "Here for a good time. Not a long time."