Tuesday 12 April 2016

Everybody Wants Some!! by Richard Linklater - Review

On the last day of school in 1976 a young teenager in Texas is initiated into the Rock 'n' roll ecosystem of high school.

Four years later in 1980 a college freshman knocks on the door of a new world as he meets his college baseball team.

The former film is Dazed and Confused, my favorite film of all time. The latter film is Richard Linklater's new joint, Everybody Wants Some!!, the semi-autobiographical and spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused (both films are named after songs obvs). It picks up where Mitch Kramer likely would've ended up at the end of high school in summer 1980; going to college to play baseball. Our lead character in this giant ensemble is the quiet and perceptive freshman, Jake (Blake Jenner).

Linklater's obsessed with time and his best films explore it in a small snapshot, allowing him to create a narrative of random consciousness. The Before films build a romance over the course of 20 years (literally) showing how the character's philosophies and personalities change over time. Boyhood presented a Rorschach and Kuleshov test surrounding a young boy whose identity is shaped by conversations and influences throughout his life. Almost all of Linklater's films are about talking and listening. Everybody Wants Some!!, like it's predecessor, is all about chatter but this time it's baseball players making crude and insightful observations about, well, life.

There's also loads of beer drinking, sex, and shenanigans. This is the funniest film since Superbad (2007). The character's spew meditations about life that are equally as hilarious as they are profound. They’re so infectious that I’m quite certain the film releases THC into your bloodstream while watching them. I had a giant smile on my face from beginning to end. Linklater's invisible direction firmly plants you in 1980 Texas and you're one of the guys. Meeting them is like meeting your new best friends.

The superbly nuanced ensemble cast is perfect top to bottom but the MVP is Glen Powell as Finnegan. While not plucked from nowhere, he may be as great of a find as McConaughey was for Dazed and Confused. Blake Jenner as Jake and Tyler Hoechlin as McReynolds are other future stars. But the larger point is that Linklater casts perfectly. Every type of person here, from Finnegan the intellectual philosophizer to Beverly (Zoey Deutch) the art student to Jay Niles (Juston Street) the endlessly unaware idiot to McReynolds the superstar, is right on the money. You already know those people. You just haven't met them yet.

Where Dazed and Confused was a high school yearbook come to life, here Linklater has created a living organism of college where the cliques of high school have now merged into a new life form. Beer is the source of nutrients powering these baseball buds along as they wander from house to bar to disco to mosh pit to practice. The wandering structure is like that of a stoned student, but the master has sneakily laced his film with insights to the universe.

All of his character's small stories, seemingly handled with ease, are crafted with such exquisite detail that they make up an overwhelmingly novelistic vision. I've driven to college alone like Jake. I've been on sports teams just like this. I've run onto a dance floor not knowing what the hell I was doing. I've worn the masks some of these guys do. To write this off as a mere college party flick is to completely miss the point of Linklater's films. Look through it's beer goggles and you'll find profound realizations.

The most important moments of college where you find your true self are outside of the classroom and not on the baseball field; they're in the peripheral moments: silly ramblings while taking bong hits, meeting new people, discussing ideas with friends or strangers etc. Jake's world expands more in three days than it likely did his entire life.

Linklater isn't interested in nostalgia; he wants to take you back to a time so specific that it feels like a memory you just remembered. This isn’t a film about 1980. Like Dazed and Confused it’s a film about how we remember things and how we create our own nostalgia. In this case it’s a Texas college in 1980.

In both form and content it's about the little things with Linklater. A nonchalant and relaxing tone guides us through the party but simmering beneath is the knowledge of growing up, the party ending, and the entrance into adulthood. We see it in McReynold's inability to handle losing. We see it in many of the guys refusing to acknowledge that baseball will end. We see it in the central conflict: Jake's identity crisis about who he's going to be with all of these influences orbiting around him.

Everybody Wants Some!! is a film so distinctly crafted in character and setting that it feels suspended in time. It captures the awe and scope of entering a new chapter in one's life, which seems like an entirely new universe. So, Everybody Wants Some!! is about nothing, which means it's about everything, and that's been Linklater's thesis his entire career. His bro sesh is both hilarious and cosmic. The characters orbit around each other, getting into hijinks and hitting on ladies, but Linklater observes them with the eye of a philosophy teacher.

Many great filmmakers emerged in the early 90's but none have as interesting filmographies as Richard Linklater. He's experimented with different forms and told many different types of stories, but his singular voice is always present. He's not a filmmaker out to impress. He just tells stories that he finds interesting and personal. When the curtain closes I expect that he'll have crafted the most masterpieces of any Gen X director. He can add this film to that shelf.

It wasn't until a few years after high school that I felt I really understood Dazed and Confused. Now a year out from college I think I get Everybody Wants Some!! right away or at least as much as one can only being removed for a year. Somewhere between the butt slapping and beer chugging are moments of revelation coated in melancholy that put a lump in our throats and we nod in agreement with Linklater. In this rapidly moving and unsolvable world, the best we can do is let the good times roll.

Review by Andy Zachariason


Everybody Wants Some!! USA 2016. Directed by Richard Linklater. Starring Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Ryan Guzman, Zoey Deutch...

Everybody Wants Some!! is out in the US on limited release already and is going on wide release on the 15th of April. Out in the UK on the 13th of May.

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