Pulling Focus: Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
“We came for a good time, not for a long time.”
– Willoughby (played by Wyatt Russell)
Let the good times roll
A loyal and warm-hearted love letter to youth and the impermanent magic hour that glimmers and glints just ahead of adulthood, Everybody Wants Some!! is the pleasantly meandering kind of picture that Richard Linklater excels in.
Ostensibly a college comedy with an emphatically male gaze, the film is also put together as the “spiritual sequel” not just to Linklater’s earlier and venerated Dazed and Confused (1993)––a generational rites of passage/coming-of-age/teen stoner anthem––but also to his extolled and very intimate epic Boyhood (2014).
Where Dazed and Confused unravelled on the last day of high school for a cross-section of Texas teens in 1976 and where Boyhood completes on a college kid encountering his new roomies and a potential girlfriend, Everybody Wants Some!! dogs at the heels of a Texas university baseball team over a three-day long weekend in August, 1980.
Where those earlier films from Linklater were largely fascinated with youthful formality, teenage tropes, and sentimentality, this films edges its protagonists away from the aggregate and more into individualism, and with that the identity impasse that comes with being on your own for the first time, from exposure to strange and untrained surroundings, and from discovering who to become and how to contend in a new and grown-up world.
“There’s a relationship between Boyhood and Everybody Wants Some!! that’s almost as strong as the tie to Dazed. They start at the same time. I was thinking of Everybody Wants Some!! throughout this century, in the same time period as I was doing Boyhood, I was writing and rewriting this movie. It’s funny they end up back to back, as a continuation. Ellar in Boyhood is kind of the better angel of my nature, and Jake is the more carousing, extroverted, fun guy.”
– Richard Linklater
Take the time, do it right
As Jake Bradford, the film’s primary protagonist, Blake Jenner imbues the savvy and somewhat cocky college freshman––a high school sports hero due to his skills as a pitcher––with the mettle to hold his own with his often gruff teammates, but also the wistful drawing power to be dubbed desirable as “the quiet guy in the backseat” by Beverly (a delightful Zoey Deutch), a co-ed who proves to be unattainable to Jake’s coy peers.
As Jake drifts and twists, taking his inaugural steps on campus and environs, this forms the relaxed and repetitive structure which the film adheres to. Set at the fictional Southeast Texas University––based largely on Sam Houston State University in Hunstville, Texas, where a freshman Linklater once played baseball himself––this sentimental snapshot is also as formal and subtly refined as the director’s best work.
Each day presents an enjoyable coalesce of ripening adolescence, often typified by inconsequential bro exchanges––not nearly as chaffing or as chauvinistic as it sounds––beer swilling, pot smoking, girl chasing, music blasting, persistent partying and sports playing, the trademarks of the genre.
The college movie, it must be said, purviews back to the earliest days of cinema, and Everybody Wants Some!!, in this respect, is ingrained as much in the tradition of Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman (1925) and the Marx Brothers’ Horse Feathers (1932) as it is to more modern comedies such as National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) and Old School (2003).
And in these differing yet congruent films we find the familiar affections of bonds being built, rules being broken, love being discovered, and most obstacles and embarrassments being satisfied in a hazy brume of partying and/or sport (usually both).
“Linklater barely puts a foot wrong, and he shows that a movie about happiness can be cogent and robust, rather than sappy or wispy; and yet, for all its gambolling mischief, “Everybody Wants Some!!” leaves us with plenty to rue… For these young Americans, the past few days have been their waking life, cranked up to the max, and everything to come—the serious task of studying, graduating, and growing up—will be a dream.”
– Anthony Lane, The New Yorker
Ooh, my little pretty one, my pretty one
As a comedy that cuts close to the bone of teen exploitation fare, Everybody Wants Some!! is frequently very funny, from the irreverent small talk, a Linklater staple that may grate with some but here is customarily self-effacing and representational––the polar opposite of a gabfest by Kevin Smith, for instance––to gelastic set pieces such as the eccentric and vying antics during the Southeast Texas Cherokees’ first unofficial practice session.
One particularly rewarding running gag, part of what Jake describes as an “identity crisis” that has him and the Cherokee’s regularly changing their appearance, musical style, and venue, each and every night of the long weekend.
Jake is convinced, and he makes a compelling case, that he and his teammates are so can-do and compliable because they’re still just half-formed fledglings. They don’t know who they are yet, or what they like.
And it’s not a terrible stretch, this early in the game, for the likes of Dale (Quinton Johnson), Finnegan (Glen Powell), Plummer (Temple Baker), Roper (Ryan Guzman), Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), and the rest to go from haughty disco dancer to anxious urban cowboy to stilted punk rocking anarchist to puffed up theater school goody-goody at the drop of a beer pong.
In fact, as our easygoing bros enter each different cliquey crowd, they find many welcome precedents and largely eschew any stereotypic circumstances. It’s not didactic or full of readymade platitudes, either.
Everybody Wants Some!!––the title of which is lifted from a 1980 promiscuous party anthem from Van Halen––is an affable, male-centric teen comedy that’s jaunty appeal stems at least partially from the fact that it’s free of the gross-out gags and unnecessary indignity that plagues almost all contemporary films of this variety.
That’s not to say this isn’t a film without hazards and hijinks, free of sexual promiscuity and tinges of violence––what truthful telling of young Americans would lack these? Here the messy misunderstandings of clashing personalities and youthful romantic pursuits are given predominantly obliging concession.
Didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I, see you cryin’?
While Linklater smartly avoids the silly slapstick and sexist locker-room spying that teen pics from the 1980s that this film largely and intentionally replicates, it is, like those lesser films, a product of the male gaze.
Girls in short shorts and tight shirts undulating on the dance floor or getting amorous amidst the frat house fete is customary here. And regrettably, Beverly appears as the only female character in Everybody Wants Some!! and she largely feels half-drawn and a little banal. She’s pretty, sweet, and tenacious, but next to everyone else that Jake meets she’s tame, reflective, and even a little dull.
Cheerful, compliant, and unfortunately objectified, it’s the one flaw of the film that the forcibly male perspective, white and heterosexual to boot, is the only real miscarry in what’s otherwise a pleasant and perceptive ascendancy.
What really saves the arguably sectarian environment of Everybody Wants Some!! rests in Linklater’s unfettered approach and his floating camera. Sure, the women here depicted draw the eye and excite the horniness of the young men, but it’s largely the male psyche and askew ego that’s pronounced. It’s what these men are trying to prove to one another that labors the point.
“If you’ve seen Linklater’s other films, you know that time for him isn’t just a factor, it’s a character, a player. Encounters always seem more intense when there’s a built-in limit — before sunrise, sunset, midnight. The life of a boy feels more momentous when he seems to be aging before your eyes, never to be again what he was only a few minutes earlier. What everybody wants in Everybody Wants Some!! is not just sex and success on the field. It’s what we all want. It’s time.”
– David Edelstein, Vulture
You’re a heartbreaker, dream maker, a love taker…
When I was a teenager Dazed and Confused arrived on the scene at first as valuable social currency for anyone who’d seen it––I grew up in the sticks, okay?––and then later, thanks to home video and premium channels, it became a hallowed and indispensable part of the zeitgeist. Will Everybody Wants Some!! hold a similar sway for the generations currently coming of age? Time will tell, of course, but it has all the accouterments to do just that.
Certainly there are a number of witty wisecracks (“You’ve got to embrace your inner strange, man. Just be weird.”), and memorable scenes (Dale, Finn, Plummer, Roper, and Jake cruising and singing along perfectly to the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”––echoing the memorable Wayne’s World does Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” number most respectfully) to safety and secure this film indelibly into the hearts of many who come across it.
The overlapping youthful discussions, the contagious optimism, the perceptive and often unassuming laughs, and the naturalistic and perceptible performances from a cast unencumbered with haut monde Hollywood stars elevate the film to the top ranks of Linklater’s filmography. It’s the right kind of light touch that the director does so well and underscores the prem everybody wants some, how ‘bout you?
Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.