Everybody Wants Some!!: How About You?, by David Bax
Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! is a sister movie to his 1993 marvel, Dazed and Confused. The two films share a shambolic, party/hangout structure and both are achingly adept at capturing the youthful feeling of being on the verge of your whole life, with endless opportunities for fun and social/sexual ascendance spilling out in front of you. Everybody Wants Some is not content to just be a Dazed and Confused for the 80s, though. It finds its own identity in a bro-centric milieu that manages to examine and find comedy in the strict codes of American maleness without necessarily signing off on them.
Blake Jenner (proving he can actually act after being saddled with a lame character on the last few seasons of Glee) stars as Jake, a freshman attending an unnamed Texas college on a baseball scholarship. Over the weekend before classes begin, Jake and the rest of the team (played by a cast of relative unknowns in another similarity to Dazed), who have their own off-campus housing, pilot individual courses through the fraternal rituals of establishing hierarchies, searching for women to bed and drinking a ton of alcohol.
From the moment senior star player McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) tells Jake that they will be teammates but not friends because of McReynolds’ inherent distrust of pitchers, it’s clear that jockeying and competition will be the rule of the day. Everything these guys do, from friendly games of table tennis in the afternoon, to taking massive bong hits, even to trying to get laid, contains the same dominant ingredients of performance and posturing. They want to win but it’s even more important that they be seen winning, just as they need to be seen “jokingly” questioning one another’s manliness at every opportunity. It’s a pack mentality where everyone is angling to be the alpha.
Then, just when you’ve taken all this in, Everybody Wants Some!! goes ahead and becomes self-aware. While casually watching two teammates while away an afternoon by bloodying each other’s fingers in a game of knuckles, Jake and Dale (newcomer J. Quinton Johnson, terrific) say out loud everything in the preceding paragraph. So, roughly halfway through, Linklater has cashed his thematic chips and the question becomes: where do we go from here?
One tactic would have been to ratchet up the competition to a comic degree, a premise executed delightfully in Athina Rachel Tsangari’s recent Chevalier. Instead, Linklater chooses to build on Jake’s recent revelations, as well as subtly pointing out that some of the older players, like Glen Powell’s loquacious Finnegan, have already had them. Their relative enlightenment doesn’t become apparent to Jake until he’s achieved some measure of it himself. Suddenly being more clear about, if not necessarily sure of, his standing in his immediate social circle, Jake and some of his new friends turn their attention to other human ecosystems. They migrate, throughout the course of the film, from a nightclub to a country/Western saloon to a theater department’s party in a sort of living performance space and more. They adapt, both because it’s the best way to succeed with women and because they are living out the college ritual, as clichéd as it is vital, of expanding their horizons. When a few of the boys find themselves at a punk show, Linklater’s camera initially hangs back, viewing the band from the same hesitant remove as the baseball players who cling to the rear wall. When Jake and Finnegan decide to give in to their surroundings, though, cinematographer Shane F. Kelly executes his most dynamic move in the relatively formally tame (though effective) film, swooping over the crowd as the two young men push through and then rotating the frame from on high, mirroring the movement of the circle pit at the foot of the stage.
So much of Linklater’s work, from Dazed to Before Sunrise to Waking Life to Slacker and more, depicts the wonderment of smart, curious people trying to find out who they are and how they relate to the world. With ebullience, humor and bittersweet empathy, Everybody Wants Some!! clicks back one notch further, to the gloriously dawning realization that you even have the capacity to do that.