A film review by Craig J. Koban April 29, 2016

EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! jjj
½

2016, R, 116 mins.

 

Blake Jenner as Jake  /  Zoey Deutch as Beverly  /  Wyatt Russell as Willoughby  /  Glen Powell as Finnegan  /  Ryan Guzman as Roper  /  Tyler Hoechlin as McReynolds  /  Dora Madison as Val  /  Jonathan Breck as Coach Gordon  /  Courtney Tailor as Buxom Coed  /  Will Brittain as Billy Autrey  /  Holly Jee as Punk

Written and directed by Richard Linklater

When Richard Linklater’s DAZED AND CONFUSED was released back in 1993 it was heralded as a love ballad to 1970’s nostalgia and the universal social pastime of “hanging out.” The latter sentiment obviously has broad appeal.  I was barely a child during the mid-1970s (the time when the film was set), but I nevertheless intimately related to the film's comings and goings of its high school characters.  Much like AMERICAN GRAFFITI, DAZED AND CONFUSED captured the mood of its respective time better than just about any other film before and since.  It also made me reflect on my own times shared with friends during those aimless, but exciting evenings after the final school bell of the year rang…and everything and anything was possible going forward.  Maybe that's why I've always cherished the film as a timeless coming-of-age classic. 

DAZED AND CONFUSED personally spoke to me in ways very few films about teenagers did.  Rumors of a long awaited follow-up effort by Linklater have surfaced for years, but the Texas-born filmmaker has spent time dabbling with other humanistic efforts, like BERNIE, his BEFORE MIDNIGHT trilogy, and BOYHOOD, the latter being one of the most creatively ambitious family dramas of all-time.  Now comes EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!, another youth centric “hang out film” set in the 1980’s that’s not literally a sequel to DAZED AND CONFUSED, but more of a “spiritual” successor to it.  Regardless of how one interprets it, EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! is just as joyously concerned with the seemingly random and unimportant activities of its young characters and their bond with one another as they prepare for the road ahead.  That, and just as much as DAZED AND CONFUSED, Linklater’s new period film is a lovingly evoked recreation of the past, right down to era-specific production design and soundtrack choices.  

 

 

Whereas DAZED AND CONFUSED was set during a relatively limited, but entertainingly tumultuous 24 hour period, EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! chronicles a whole weekend before the first day of college in 1980 for a bunch of baseball players in Texas, which gives them all ample time to party, practice their sport, and engage in constant battles of social one-upmanship.  Ultimately, this male dominated rights of passage tale follows them at their campus home, discos, bars, arcades, and pretty much every other place where they can become quickly inebriated, hit on women, and do whatever they can to shock and/or humiliate one another in front of as many witnesses as possible.  Watching these lads all try to become the dominant alpha male makes for some hilarious viewing, even while partaking in events of the seemingly mundane and mostly uneventful.  

Again, casting big names in the film would have been a distracting mistake on Linklater’s part.  Instead, we get relatively unseasoned performers – some having next to no acting experience –  that somehow rise to the occasion and help solidify the spontaneous veracity of the interpersonal ties between these men.  The film starts in the fall of 1980 as we meet Jake (Blake Jenner), who has just arrived at Southeast Texas University on a prestigious baseball scholarship.  He has vast aspirations to be an all-star pitcher, even though the college house that he moves into is populated by snobby jocks ands future teammates that don’t have a tremendous amount of respect for rookies.  The motley crew of hedonistic athletes that he finds himself rooming with include Roper (Ryan Guzman), McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), Plummer (Temple Baker), Jay (Justin Street), Finnegan (Glenn Powell), Beauter (Will Brittain), Dale (J. Quinton Johnson) and Willoughby (Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt and arguably the only “known” actor of the bunch), all of whom conspire against each other in daily challenges of petty male intimidation and domination.  While trying to fit in with these rascally rogues, Jake becomes smitten with Beverly (Zoey Deutch) a theater major that’s on a higher intellectually plane than most of the floozies he and his gang have been flirting with all weekend. 

There’s not much of an overriding plot in EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!, seeing as it’s more or less a series of interconnected vignettes than a fully realized narrative with a definitive beginning, middle, and end.  Linklater is more compelled, I think, with capturing the rhythms of his characters and their relationships than he is with presenting a relatively straightforward story.  He’s ultimately infatuated with Jake’s journey and the rich menagerie of eclectic and narcissistic goofballs that he cohabitates with.  Most of the film sees him trying to establish his own unique position and place within this odd “family” of men and make a name for himself, even if it involves enduring “significant” pursuits like ping pong matches, knuckle flicking endurance tests, and scoring with the ladies.  Nothing to these jocks is truly insignificant when it comes to proving their superiority.  

And I do mean nothing.  Whether it be dressing up in wide collared, polyester shirts to dance the night away at a campus disco or going cowboy line dancing at a country bar or slam dancing at a punk music club, Jake and his brethren seem equal to the task of trying and doing anything to prove their social might.  Predictably and humorously, these men are confidently assured in some venues, whereas they’re laughably inept in others.  Refreshingly, though, Linklater doesn’t paint his characters as clichéd and reprehensible college hooligans.  The director was a self-proclaimed college jock himself, which allows his examination of his characters in EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! to maintain some semblance of level headed observation.  Yes, some of these men are prone to committing acts of hostile aggression towards each other, but none of them are really loathsomely mean spirited at heart; they’re just a bunch competitive dudes that want to have a hell of a good time before school starts.  Linklater shows affection for these characters that many other college themed films don’t have for athletes.  He neither mocks/admonishes them nor does he completely condone their prankster behavior that often goes too far.  Like good cinematic documenters of times and places of yesteryear, Linklater invites us into the microcosm of his characters’ lives and simply asks us to bare witness to them…no matter how silly and inconsequential they may seem. 

Linklater is also a genius when it comes to making films that affectionately evoke their respective periods without coming off as ostentatiously garish, and DAZED AND CONFUSED and EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! are no exceptions.  Whether it be in the form of records, phones, cassette and VHS tape collections, archaic looking video games, primitive computers, hairstyles, fashions, and sweet rides, Linklater’s recreation of the radical decade in question is pitch perfectly tactile without drawing too much needless attention to itself.  The film is wall-to-wall with iconic music of the 1980s as well (including, of course, the Van Halen title track), which only helps encapsulate the time capsule allure of the whole enterprise.  Linklater is just as nitpicky and obsessed with character dynamics as he is with all of the stylistic peripheral elements as well.  Even before we see title cards that indicate that EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! is set on August 28, 1980 we already feel hypnotically transported to the time within a few short minutes of the film.  

For as resoundingly well engineered as the film is, Linklaster does make a few missteps, especially in the case of female characters.  With the possible exception of Beverly (played with maximum infectious quirkiness by Deutch), most of the other women presented here are more nocturnal pursuits for the men to conquer than they are flesh and blood human beings.  Some of the largely male cast of EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! shows their greenhorn acting chops at times, especially Will Brittain, who seems to be channeling a bit too much Matthew McConaughey for his own good (the latter whom embodied Wooderson, one of DAZED AND CONFUSED’s most legendary characters).  That, and EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! never completely justifies its near two hour run time, especially considering how purposely scattershot and meandering it is.  The film may not have the sense of freshness and surefire swiftness and confidence of its spiritual prequel, but it nevertheless reinforces how adept Linklater is at utilizing a squad of relatively unknown actors and delivering an authentically rendered experience that feels real through and through.

MY CTV REVIEW:

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