Editor’s Note: Everybody Wants Some!! opened in limited theatrical release March 30, 2106.
If the auteur theory holds any validity – and let’s assume, for the purposes of this review, that it does – then Richard Linklater certainly qualifies as an auteur, writing, directing, and producing an uninterrupted flow of character-focused indie dramas for the better part of three decades. Over that period, the self-effacing Linklater’s output has been remarkable for its consistency and regularity. He may not churn out a film a year like Woody Allen, but he comes closer than any American filmmaker to matching or even surpassing Allen’s output in quantity and more importantly, in quality. Linklater’s loose, novelistic approach to narrative, character, and theme also puts in select, possibly exclusive, company, but his most notable films, especially The Before… trilogy and Boyhood, evince a filmmaker grappling with the deeper, more profound psychological effects of physical and emotional change through time. His latest effort, Everybody Wants Some!!, doesn’t feel so much like the work of an auteur, but of a middling, mediocre filmmaker revisiting his youth through uncritical, nearsighted eyes.
In typical Linklater fashion, Everybody Wants Some!! doesn’t build or drive toward a big, climactic event, instead segueing from the smaller, random events, the interstitial events that make up day-to-day lives…
Linklater has called Everybody Wants Some!! a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed & Confused, his 1994 ode to high-school life in mid-70s Texas, but it feels like anything but. While Everybody Wants Some!! unfolds four years after Dazed & Confused in the Linklater-verse, it purposely sets aside the top-down, cross-cultural view of the social hierarchies prevalent in high school regardless of time, place, or economic circumstance (more or less) for a more focused, surface-deep take on college jocks, the one-time villains of high-school and college comedies. Our guide and viewpoint character, Jake (Blake Jenner), a shockingly bland athletic type with deep reservoirs of feelings and intellectual curiosity (he quotes Whitman at one point), enters college life at an unnamed Texas university as a star baseball pitcher, the newest member of a nationally ranked college baseball team. Jake’s genial go along to get-along mindset serves him well over the course of a long weekend before the beginning of fall classes.
Jake’s entry into college life comes courtesy of the equivalent of a frat house: Off-campus university housing where the members of the baseball team share living quarters. Almost immediately, Jake runs afoul of McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), a hyper-competitive senior with a Mariana Trench deep grudge against pitchers. He thinks they’re “weird,” a seemingly unfair assessment tactually supported by the hyper-active, socially maladroit Jay (Juston Street), a hyper-active pitcher with a bad haircut, a long, looping mustache, and delusions of grandeur (he crows constantly about being drafted by a major league). He’s more caricature than character, however, better suited to a broad, vulgar, crude comedy than one slightly more grounded like Everybody Wants Some!! Jake’s teammates stand out by their apparent honesty of their talents and skills as baseball players. Most of them know, even if only subconsciously, that their baseball careers will end when they graduate college or their eligibility runs out (unless, of course, they lie about their age and try to play elsewhere).
Linklater’s latest effort doesn’t feel so much like the work of an auteur, but of a middling, mediocre filmmaker revisiting his youth through uncritical, nearsighted eyes.
In typical Linklater fashion, Everybody Wants Some!! doesn’t build or drive toward a big, climactic event, instead segueing from the smaller, random events, the interstitial events that make up the day-to-day lives of the baseball players, but it’s mostly drinking, getting stoned, courtesy of the team’s resident weed expert and part-time philosopher, Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), hitting various night clubs (disco one night, a country-western bar another, a punk rock show on another, and a colorful party thrown by theater majors). While Linklater desperately tries to add shade or coloring to Jake and the other players, they don’t so much emerge as distinct characters as melt into an amorphous collective defined by their endless pursuit of hedonistic pleasures and their ever-shifting place in the players’ social hierarchy. Reflecting the male characters’ immature, juvenile views of women, the female characters in Everybody Wants Some!! exist primarily as willing objects of desire. Linklater makes a lone exception for one female character, Beverly (Zoey Deutch). She gives as good as she gets, but she’s the sweet “good girl” that Jake immediately spots as someone special (i.e., worth dating beyond a night or two).
Linklater also makes a not particularly insightful point about the flux and flow of identity in college, especially as it was once tied to music-oriented sub-cultures (where music went, fashion followed). As the players change clothes to fit in to whatever sub-culture they plan on visiting next, they’re also prepping for the real-world choices that await them beyond college, but for now, it’s simply playtime. The trips to different nightclubs also allows Linklater the opportunity to indulge his non-filmic obsession with music and the dominant role music once played in cultural and social identity. Free of explicit or even implicit socio-political commentary, the music-centered scenes help elevate otherwise bland, unengaging dialogue delivered by bland, unengaging characters. Given Linklater’s conscious choice to let his characters off too easily – mild hazing excepted, the characters avoid homophobic and racial slurs (the sole African-American player on the team might as well be Caucasian given his full embrace of dude-bro’ism) – more than suggesting Linklater has little, if any interest, in exploring the past except through the deliberately narrow lens of white male privilege.
Richard Linklater's Everybody Wants Some!! is a nostalgic tale powered by music-centered scenes which help distract from the otherwise bland, unengaging dialogue delivered by bland, unengaging characters.