Review: Everybody Wants Some!!

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After making one of the great high school films over two decades ago, perhaps it was only a matter of time before Richard Linklater would follow up on good vibes of Dazed and Confused and make a film about college. In the intervening years, it’s been rare to find filmmakers expand upon the proven formula of college films, dominated by lewd humor, gratuitous nudity, and all of the other expected tom foolery. Yes, these things exist in Everybody Wants Some!!, Linklater’s ode to the 80’s college experience, but they merely obligatory elements in a film otherwise rife with testosterone loaded competition and camaraderie, and the occasional philosophical nugget to ponder.

It’s three days before the start of the first semester, and Jake (Blake Jenner), has just pulled up to the baseball house that he’ll learn to call home presumably over the next four years. The rules of this house are simple but strict: no alcohol and no girls upstairs. Naturally, the anxious and rabble rousing residents pay no heed to these laws, for the next 72 hours are all about jamming in as much fun as possible. It’s evident that they’re all at the school for baseball rather than academics anyway. While most of his teammates are welcoming enough, some are also biased against Jake for being a pitcher, fostering some playful taunting. Jake himself is all about having good time, but he’s not a dumb jock, quietly hiding a more discerning persona under the athletic exterior, one that catches the eyes of one or two girls on campus.

If you’re going into Everybody Wants Some!! looking for a plot or college sports action, then know that Richard Linklater has no intention of conveying anything generic or expected. The film moves casually along at its own pace, driven by the energy of these young lads discovering the freedoms of their new, largely unsupervised lives. They throw crazy parties, get thrown out of bars, go dancing in three wildly different locales, and one up each other at every opportunity. The film’s perspective comes from the eye view of the post-adolescent male and all that it entails, so that’s where the obligatory raunchiness comes into play. It goes without saying that Linklater captures the college atmosphere to a tee, albeit one from three decades ago, bereft of the internet and cell phones with their electronic screens.

The cast is uniformly terrific throughout, even if at least half of them look too old to be college baseball players. Nevertheless, their rapport is instantly infectious, a testament to the casting and Linklater’s facile grasp of the interplay that happens in tightly knit groups, especially sports teams. What’s even more amazing is how Linklater rounds out identities for over ten different characters, refusing to conform to easy stereotypes. They’re all made up of contradictions and strange quirks, and Linklater celebrates them for those presumed flaws. Indeed, embracing one’s weirdness is one of the many little thematic gems Everybody Wants Some!! has to offer. Linklater’s trademark philosophizing is sprinkled throughout the film, with all sorts of various insights applicable to the scenes on hand, never obtrusive and always perceptive.

Richard Linklater has never been known to be a particularly cinematically fussy director, but Everybody Wants Some!! might be one of his most adventurous outings to date. Granted, he doesn’t go over the top with editing or photography, but he layers his shots more deeply, yielding a few long takes with multiple planes of action amongst his actors. It’s a subtle but highly impressive way of showing the boundaries expanding for these young men minute by minute. Of course, the soundtrack is jam packed with dozens of late 70’s and early 80’s staples, from the title stolen from Van Halen, to Blondie, Pat Benatar and Pattie Smith. Above all, there may be not be a more delightful scene this year than seeing the guys cruise around campus to “Rapper’s Delight.” It’s moments like these that so many filmmakers strive to emulate, and Linklater does it effortlessly. Indeed, as any pro athlete would attest, making it look easy is a telltale sign of someone who is clearly among the best at what they do.

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~ by romancinema on April 3, 2016.

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