Director Richard Linklater describes his latest film Everybody Wants Some as both a follow-up to his Oscar-nominated Boyhood – picking up the action on his protagonist’s first day of college – and as a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused – imagining what life after high school might have been like for young Mitch (Wiley Wiggins).
Sure, the actors are different and the main character doesn’t have the same name, but at this point it’s evident that the protagonists in most of Linklater’s films are one and the same: they’re all some version of the filmmaker at various points in his life. Not since François Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel films has a working director so fearlessly injected pieces of himself into his work. In many ways Everybody Wants Some feels like Linklater’s most autobiographical work to date – which both helps and harms the film.
It’s the first week of college for Jake (newcomer Blake Jenner) and a chance to get a taste of what adulthood has to offer. He’s attending on a baseball scholarship and spends the weekend before class starts getting to know his new teammates and fellow students. That’s the entire movie in a nutshell. In true Linklater fashion Everybody Wants Some is intended to be a slice of life, a window into a very specific moment in time. In this case, that time is the early 1980s – an era when disco and rock n’ roll still battled for supremacy, and when tight jeans and unfortunate facial hair were the order of the day. It is painfully faithful to the time period and one of the film’s best elements.
Everybody Wants Some will not be for everybody though. The film is a nonstop parade of frat boy antics and testosterone-fueled competition. It’s funny for a while, but soon begins to wear thin. It’s essentially Toxic Masculinity 101 – women are conquests to be collected at the end of the night and the young men mercilessly rib one another over failure or for simply not being man enough. It’s college, dude! Or at least the idea of what college is supposed to be for young American men. At times it’s difficult to tell if Linklater is celebrating this culture or trying to take the piss out of it by showing just how ridiculous and immature these guys could be, but it’s clear that he’s nostalgic for this time in his life. It is nothing if not an honest portrait.
That brings us back to Jake. He’s the heart of the film thanks to Jenner’s ever-smiling performance. He’s an athlete with a brain who sees through the jock bullshit, yet engages with it in order to fit in. Without Jake the movie would feel like being trapped in a gym class locker room for two hours, an endless barrage post-game posturing and towel whipping. Relief for both Jake and the audience comes in the form of Beverly (Zoey Deutch), a dance student who takes a shine to our hero and introduces him to the arty side of college life. The scenes between Jenner and Deutch are sweet and charming, although they almost feel out of place in the film. Imagine if Animal House transformed into Before Sunrise between scenes and you’ll get some idea of the tonal shifts that occur in the movie. It can be a little jarring, but so can the first week of college.
All that said, there’s a lot to like about Everybody Wants Some. Just as Dazed and Confused was a spawning pool for future talents like Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, and Milla Jovovich, Everybody Wants Some will probably be a launchpad for many stars. I expect to see a lot more of actors Jenner, Deutch, Glen Powell, Tyler Hoechlin, Austin Amelio, Wyatt Russell, J. Quinton Johnson, Ryan Guzman, and Will Brittain in the coming years – and someone else needs to harness the comedic talents of scene-stealer Juston Street immediately.
Like a typical freshman college student Everybody Wants Some sways between being unapologetically earnest, goofy as hell, and gleefully unselfconscious. It doesn’t always work, it can be uncomfortable at times, but when viewed with Linklater’s other films it makes for a great companion piece – and introduces us to a side of the director that we’ve never met before.