| A group of college baseball players navigate their way through the freedoms and responsibilities of unsupervised adulthood.
Richard Linklater’s now twenty-five plus years of filmmaking are loosely tied together with his constant desire to explore and observe how, within the confines of society, people connect with each other (or don’t). As big fan of Slacker, Dazed, the entire Before trilogy and Waking Life, I could not wait to see his new movie. In what he has termed a “spiritual sequel” to his cult classic Dazed and Confused, the filmmaker takes us down memory lane to a college campus as the 1970’s devolved into the 1980’s. Many of these characters and moments are undoubtedly snatched from Linklater’s own experiences as a college baseball player at Sam Houston State. Linklater knows these guys. Heck, he WAS one of these guys! The cinematic kinship goes beyond Dazed and Confused, and influence can be seen as the follow-up to his Boyhood film, with some flavor from Animal House and a dose of Bull Durham.
“Everybody Wants Some!!” doesn’t have much of a plot, but it’s plenty fun anyway. The movie’s about adjusting to college life, enjoying the last few days before classes start and… making great memories. There’s an ongoing subplot involving Jake getting romantic with a smart and adorable freshman performing arts major named Beverly (Zoey Deutch), but this film isn’t about telling a complex story. Like its 1993 predecessor, it’s about a moment in time and (especially) its colorful characters. Also like “Dazed and Confused”, there aren’t many stars in this movie (as big as they get is Ryan Guzman, from the “Step Up” films, in a small role), but several members of this cast likely have bright futures ahead of them. (How many people really knew Milla Jovovich, Adam Goldberg, Renee Zellweger, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey or even Matthew McConaughey in 1993?).
|”We came for a good time, not for a long time.”
Mark Kermode made a great point in his “Boyhood” review saying “Linklater is the most humanist of directors […] people say cinema is a voyeuristic medium in which you look at people, and Linklater looks with people”. Whilst with all of that I could not possibly agree more, after watching so many films from him I have realized he doesn’t just stop looking with people, Linklater takes it to a whole other level where the characters aren’t being judged or manipulated in any way, where everybody is celebrated in their own world, he finds this incredible balance of humanity and beauty within the most insignificant moments on the surface, that yet mean so much and thematically bear a sprawling amount of significance. His look at people and their conditions is humble. That’s why he makes the best “hangout movies”, because every time we get to visit these characters we are in awe with them, we love them so much because we see the inherent beauty about life and people in their every move.
But the more I think about the movie and even when ‘Everybody Wants Some’ tries to aim closer to Dazed than Slacker, it didn’t feel that crafted as its predecessors. With ‘Slacker’ it was a virtual anthropological snapshot of Austin Texas college life circa 1988-1989. Only Slacker’s cast continually gave the audience thoughtful, crazy, disturbing, and provoking words and actions. By contrast, ‘Everybody Wants Some’ is about as soulful as a kegger. A fun time in the moment, but nothing you’ll remember after that and that’s kind of disappointing coming from Linklater. Maybe it says something about the time period, but I have my doubts if that was Linklater’s intention in the first place.
There are themes in this deceptively simple movie, to be sure. Being a movie about college kids, there are some jabs at “the government” among other life lessons like “don’t fool around too much”. But amidst all this series of masculine horseplay, a great soundtrack, the specific direction, what stick to me about Everybody Wants Some is the notion of coming to your own and being who you want to be. And what more to support that notion than just to grab a beer and have fun for once in a while. So I certainly without a doubt still had fun with it.