If you want to pinpoint one thing which Richard Linklater excels at more than any other director, it is creating poignancy while capturing a moment. Maybe that moment is simply checking in every nine years on the same characters (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight); or it’s watching a single individual live through the important moments of his life over twelve years (Boyhood); or in the case of Everybody Wants Some!!, it is the weekend before college when you’re just rolling into a new phase of your life. Linklater continues to prove he is a force to be reckoned with as he has made one of his funniest films ever, without sacrificing that poignancy which has elevated his previous films.
Following Jake (Blake Jenner) as he arrives to his college home for the next several years, we watch him as he segues from high school life to the next step in adulthood. Him and the rest of his college baseball team maneuver through a weekend of partying and identity-discovering, all without the supervision of adults. It is not difficult to call Everybody Wants Some!! a spiritual successor to Dazed and Confused, but it is difficult to watch this and not want more of the 80s setting, these characters, and Linklater’s expert script. This is a movie that feels genuine at every turn, and while it may come off as ‘fluffy’ or ‘light’ to some, it earns its heartfelt moments because of it.
The cast here is stellar, bringing each line of dialogue to the screen as if they really are these characters. I have a hard time not seeing Wyatt Russell as Willoughby now, or Glen Powell as Finnegan. Those were definitely the two stand outs of the cast, but everyone is bringing themselves to the role in a refreshing way. The only character who feels like more of a caricature than anything is Juston Street as Dale – a character so wound up in how awesome he thinks he is that he can’t divorce himself from himself.
It is the dynamics between the cast and characters that makes Everybody Wants Some!! feel as light as it does, though. Every time they interacted with one another, I had a giant grin on my face. That doesn’t come just from a likable cast; it comes from the script encouraging playfulness while still maintaining a central conceit for each character. You have the pothead, alpha male, “bro”, shy guy, philosophical guy, and the weirdo – but never do those traits act as borders on a character. The pothead could be smoking pot and talking about the instrumentation on a song and how it transcends the human body, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be caring and accepting of others despite colossal differences in opinion.
The joy is to watch everyone play off each other, but you can also easily find joy in the film’s setting. The 80s aesthetic goes a long way, as disco still persists in small doses, “My Sharona” blasts through Jake’s speakers, the gang raps to The Sugarhill Gang, the punk scene is emerging, and bushy mustaches are still in style. The remnants of the 1970s can be felt strongly in Everybody Wants Some!! but it generally feels like we’re watching people who are in a complete adjustment period – both in their own lives and the decade they live in.
This is why I go to Linklater movies though. He manages to take something that seems superficial and unimportant – a bunch of college boys partying all weekend – and turn it into something with weight. Jake isn’t just a freshman to college, he’s a freshman to life. That kind of “big picture” thinking is what takes Everybody Wants Some!! from being a riff on National Lampoon’s Animal House to having the emotional staying power of Linklater’s films like Boyhood or Dazed and Confused. It is fun and funny, which makes it hard not to want to spend more time with Everybody Wants Some!!