“I’m too philosophical for this shit!”
24 years ago Richard Linklater made the jump from the world of DIY indies to Hollywood with the anthropological high school comedy Dazed And Confused. Now he’s back with a companion piece of sorts in which his camera wanders around the social world of a college campus in the early 80s. Like the previous flick, the movie starts in the world of horny young folk partying in a manner familiar to countless high school and college comedies, then slowly grows into a more thoughtful exploration of the lives of the actual human beings engaging in good ol’ fashioned cinematic rowdiness. The movie doesn’t quite match the depth of it’s predecessor, but that could very well just be the limitation of the somewhat less universal subject matter as well as the fact that Dazed itself didn’t really reveal it’s hidden charms until after a few extra viewings
Unsurprisingly, Everybody Wants Some!! shares the rambling ensemble character study vibe of Dazed And Confused that’s a little more complex than it’s breezily entertaining exterior suggests. Sure, the movie is filled with laughs and raunch. That goes without saying. The characters are all initially defined certain comedic types, like the rambling stoner (Wyatt Russell) or the overly competitive meathead (Tyler Hoechlin). However, through the gently conversational world that Linklater creates all of them prove to be more complicated than they first seem. They are people rather than characters after all, with all the foibles, flaws, and broken dreams that suggests. Linklater has that special ability that a few filmmakers like Robert Altman or Paul Thomas Anderson share where we often feel like we know and become friends with the characters by the time the credits roll. Sure, it’s ultimately all a goof. There are no big tragedies that make people cry and reveal their inner selves (thank god). Everyone just seems to expand in depth from the more time the audience spends with them. You know, like life.
There’s something cheeky about specifically giving that depth of character to frat boys these days that I’m certain isn’t lost on Linklater. Sure there are no greek letters or initiation ceremonies involved. These are technically teammates and roommates not frat bros, but the group dynamics are ultimately the same despite the lack of bonehead rituals. Frat boys are a cultural punchline these days and for good reason. But they are people too and aren’t all bad, which Linklater delights in slowly teasing that out. All of the pitfalls are there like the competitive binge drinking and the obsessive pursuit of women, but the more time spent in their company, the more we see that they are just people and those party pursuits are harmless. It’s all very loving, sweet, and funny. The cast is remarkable. Once again Linklater was allowed to skip the star system and find fresh faces that suit every role. It’s hard not to like them all. Sure, the cast is decidedly male centric with only on major female role and some might find that a little shorsighted. However, that just feels more like a limitation of the subject matter than a flaw in Linklater’s design.
If Everybody Wants Some!! fails to live up to the high standard of Dazed And Confused, that’s likely because college just isn’t quite as complex of a social environment to study as high school. After all, high school is a punishingly universal experience that throws every type of personality together for good and ill, feeling almost like a prison for adolescents with all the melancholy that suggests. College is a voluntary social institution limited by class and segregated by fields of study and social groups. Linklater makes the film about a single house full of guys wandering through various cliques at clubs, bars, cafeterias and eventually at a perhaps overly elaborate drama party. So, we get a sense of the larger landscape, while being limited to the perspective of the house these guys belong too. That is how the college experience is both limited and open. It’s an accurate portrayal, just one that limits the ensemble character study the filmmaker weaves together by perspective. Not to mention the fact that overwhelming good time party vibes limit any of those moments of melancholic introspection that helped Dazed And Confused endure to wider audiences than the stoner crowd. Sure, it might make the movie is a little less rich, but it’s all for the sake of accuracy. After all, if you have a bad time in college, you’re doing it wrong.
The movie is presented well on Blu-ray courtesy of Paramount. Colors are rich and details are strong (which given some of the clothing and carpeting in the movie is a mixed blessing). Obviously, there’s an intended rough n’ tumble quality to the aesthetic, with the color timing manipulated to look somewhat like faded 70s film stock, but the flick still looks damn good. The soundtrack is also impressive, not for wild immersive n’ explosive set pieces, but for the wall-to-wall soundtrack of cult and pop hits that burst out of the speakers to pretty impressive effect. It’s hard to imagine the film being better served in HD.
Everybody Wants Some comes with a little collection of special features that above all else, feel completely appropriate to the freewheeling tone and style of the movie. Nothing is formal, it’s all a little messy and fun, giving a strong impression of how the friendly onscreen style and relationships translated directly from production. The first and most substantial feature is Everyboy Wants Some: More Stuff That’s Not In The Movie a 25-minute compilation of outtakes and deleted scenes. These are little bits and pieces and bloopers and improvs trimmed out of the movie that were cut together into a playful montage. More than anything else, it’s just an opportunity to spend a little more time lounging with the loveable characters. There’s nothing earth shattering left out, but there are plenty of nice little moments that those intoxicated by the movie will love (plus a hilarious faux temper tantrum from Linklater for good measure).
Next up comes “Rickipedia” a four-minute segment showing Linklater at work and discussing the director’s steal trap mind for references and details from the era that’s pretty fascinating. There are moments of him explaining to the cast when the high fives entered pop culture and why they should be doing fist bumps instead. It’s brief, but a welcome insight to Linklater’s directorial process and why he’s so good at creating such delicate naturalism. Next up is a five-minute feature on the “skills” videos that the cast needed to make to show off their sports abilities. It’s cute and the cast clearly have fond memories of the process, but it’s also likely the least substantial feature on the disc. Finally the special feature section wraps up with a five minute featurette about all of the ridiculous early 80s fashions and hairstyles that the cast were force to endure, that’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect.
Does this deserve a spot on your Dork Shelf?
It’s not a jam-packed disc by any means(a Criterion release down the road is always possible for that), but for anyone who loves Everybody Wants Some!!, you shouldn’t be disappointed with this release.