How do you live up to something like the Oscar-winning “Boyhood”? If you’re writer/director Richard Linklater, you go back to your roots, even if you never strayed that far from them in the first place.
“Everybody Wants Some!!” has been called a “spiritual sequel” to “Dazed and Confused,” one of Linklater’s earliest and most cherished films, and that line isn’t just spin. In fact, it’s so similar that some of the characters even look and act the same.
The film is set in the fall of 1980. Jake (Blake Jenner) is ready to start his freshman year on the baseball team at a college in Texas. Jake and his new family of jocks enjoy one last weekend of freedom before the first day of classes kicks off. There’s a lot of hazing, a lot of drinking, and a lot of discussion of Pink Floyd.
This is everything Linklater is comfortable with: a specific time, the state of Texas, and lots of partying. But at first, the characters come off as unlikable, probably because of the amount of times they shout “lesbian!” whenever a girl won’t talk to them. Some movies tap into an older time through clothing and hairstyles. “Everybody Wants Some!!” doubles down on the attitudes of its period.
But then a minor cinematic miracle happens: You grow attached to these characters, and then you grow to love them. “Everybody Wants Some!!” goes deeper into clique culture than any other college movie I can remember.
By the end of the surprisingly long (for this genre) two-hour running time, you’d be happy to spend a whole other movie with these characters. It is wondrous what a little bit of empathy can do.
What follows is an absolute delight. Like Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused,” “Before” trilogy, and “Boyhood” before it, “Everybody Wants Some!!” is essentially about nothing. But two hours of nothing is rarely this enjoyable.
The characters sit around and talk and talk. Some conversations are deep, and some aren’t as deep as the characters think they are. At one point, they pass a bong around and Willoughby (Wyatt Russell) discusses his theories on music. A weaker director would be laughing at the characters. Linklater, rather, plays the scene sincerely (it is still hilarious, though), and it feels more like a memory than a joke.
There are many points in the movie when you think something bad will happen. At the beginning of the movie, the coach tells the team that there’s no drinking or girls in the house. You immediately suspect that they will get caught by the film’s end. Linklater, however, is all about plants rather than payoffs. There are no villains here, just people who occasionally act out and are later forgiven — as in most of real life. Once you realise this, you can just relax and enjoy this big hangout.
“Everybody Wants Some!!” doesn’t tread on any new ground. It is essentially “Dazed and Confused” but with fewer authority figures around. Hey, I’m not complaining. The film’s optimism, its lively soundtrack, and the way it gleefully exists in the moment (“L-I-V-I-N” as it goes in “Dazed”) left me with a big smile on my face. I could watch about 100 more of these plotless movies from Linklater.
“Everybody Wants Some!!” is now playing.
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