by Cormac O
Richard Linklater received the most universal praise of his career with the ambitious Boyhood. A heartwarming tale of motherhood, family dysfunction and the evolution of popular culture in the noughties. And how does Linklater respond to all the accolades and critical acclaim? By stepping back into the eighties, throwing a bunch of horny college baseball players into a house together, supply them with alcohol, drugs, testosterone, misogynistic lingo and disco. This isn’t a filmmaker who panders for universal admiration. A true indie maverick at heart, who has always stayed true to his laissez-faire style of filmmaking.
The trailer for Everybody Wants Some!! pulls no punches in terms of its raunchiness and neither does the film. No foreplay, straight into it. Jake (Blake Jenner) arrives at Southeast Texas State college three days and fifteen hours before class commences. He’s a baseball player, riding into college on a scholarship, along with his new college teammates. He’s not there ten minutes before they’re cruising around campus picking up chicks and knocking back beers. Linklater introduces us to a dirty dozen of new talent. An eclectic clique of newcomer actors, who all carry their own in diverse and magnetic performances.
Once again, Linklater, with his lackadaisical flair, scraps any form of plot and allows us to simply hang out with his characters on their hazy weekend before college begins. His films always convey a specific time and place. The “spiritual prequel”, Dazed and Confused depicted the last day of an Austin high school in 1976, Boyhood portrayed a boy growing up around Texas during the 2000s, and Everybody Wants Some!! examines the coming-of-age of a group of guys before college in 1980. Linklater shows great affection for the early eighties era here, down to every little detail, but never comes across as forced. Linklater doesn’t reach, he’s not desperate. He lays back and allows his characters do the work. Similar to Boyhood, when it comes to selecting the soundtrack, Linklater doesn’t choose the obscure or “cool” tracks that filmmakers such as Tarantino or Scorsese do. He uses the songs that were actually popular back in a certain period. Boyhood had Coldplay and Soulja Boy while his latest film blasts Van Halen and disco.
The Place: A Texan native, Linklater has always made his region a character in his films. His love of the red state is evident throughout his career (founder of the Austin Film Society) and you can tell he has a fondness for the great outdoors – cruising around in cars (Dazed & Confused), father-son camping (Boyhood), swimming in rivers (Everybody Wants Some!!).
The Time: Billed as a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused, Linklater pushed on from the last day of high school in 1976 to the first day of college 1980. The music, clothes, hair and wonderful moustaches are all pedantically portrayed, but another aspect of that time that’s utilised in Everybody Wants Some!! is the technology. You can constantly see analog paraphernalia within various scenes around the interior of the Alpha House. All this mise-en-scene conveys a substantial dose of nostalgia.
Linklater also stays true to his characters. He doesn’t make excuses for them or try to overstretch them. They’re not funny like comic actors. Similar to real life, their humour can be hit or miss and sometimes just downright cringeworthy. But they’re honest and naturalistic in their roles. The camera glides along smoothly for the ride, following the boys-to-men on their pre-season odyssey. Their coach implements two rules for their Alpha House (no booze & no broads) that are quickly abandoned due to the player’s alpha-maleness. And this theme of alpha and competition plays throughout the movie, which would have worked even better if Linklater didn’t have the character of Jake actually say it – “you notice that everything around here is a competition”. This line undermines the audience. We can clearly see the competitiveness, we don’t need to be told. It’s like watching Jock National Geographic for Christ’s sake. The fact that they are aware of their competitive nature makes it a lot less interesting for the viewer.
Besides the cut-throat mentality and boisterous aura on the surface, what lies beneath is a bunch of boys on the cusp of adulthood. It’s a coming-of-age camaraderie, where the characters are having too much fun to realise they’re going through this rite of passage. They all must work as a team, but their first weekend together allows a glimpse at their search for individuality and identity. Although, the film’s sentimentality doesn’t hit as high as the raunchy and witty comedy, at least when it comes to the female characters anyway. The last few scenes between Jake and Beverly (Zoey Deutch), a performing arts major he takes a liking to, go just a little too smoothly and lack any notion of unpredictability. Maybe it would have been more compelling if Linklater stuck around with the lads, because the route he took we’ve all seen a thousand times.
The two little discrepancies that I found in the film still can’t stop Everybody Wants Some!! from completely knocking it out the park. Linklater has given us another effortless comedy with crisp and dynamic dialogue, spontaneous and natural performances, and variety of diverse and loveable characters. Similar to the stage of life Linklater illustrates, you don’t want the film to end. You want to keep hanging out with these guys after the last reel wraps up. The two hours go by like a breeze, blowing a smile onto your face that’s hard to wipe off. A perfect film to get you in the mood for summer, drink some cold ones and sock a few dingers.