Everybody Wants Some!! finds Richard Linklater working in his comfortable zone. His follow-up to the 12-years-in-the-making coming-of-age epic Boyhood, it’s dubbed the “spiritual sequel” to his 1993 cult classic Dazed and Confused, and for damn good reason. This first weekend of college ’80s time-capsule of a movie shares the same DNA as the day-in-the-life high school ensemble piece, spit and all, and it proves the filmmaker hasn’t lost his touch throughout these past two decades. The latest from the Texas-based writer/director is just as boisterous, attentive and fun-loving as his claim-to-fame, if not more so. And it proves, without a shadow of a doubt, that Linklater is truly a one-of-a-kind at his easygoing, meditative craft. While never without its faults, producing superstar Megan Ellison’s newest effort is also never short on positive energy and fast-loving entertainment, and everyone should find something to enjoy this hangout session on film — especially if, like our lead gang of hormonal young athletic stallions, they want nothing more than some good old fashion fun.
The most remarkable quality about Linklater’s latest is how inviting it is from the very start. From the minute it begins, and we follow our scrappy young hunky freshman lead Jake (Blake Jenner) ride into his first weekend of college with nothing more than some tattered clothes and a box of records in the backseat — all while The Knack’s “My Sharona” blares loud and proud out of the stereos — we’re instantly whisked into this time and place. It’s August 1980. The first classes of the semester don’t start for another 72 hours. The sun is beaming. Hot young girls are seemingly everywhere. Lone Star beer might as well be flowing from water foundations or sold on the street. Everything is positively glorious for a hot young 19-year-old like Jake as he strolls into this small Texas university during the final dog days of summer.
As soon as Jake drives his 442 muscle car up to his new lodging, a baseball team fraternity house just a smidge off-campus, it doesn’t take long before he buddies up with the rest of the team. There’s Finnegan (Glenn Howell), the smoothest ladies man of the group; McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), a cocky, thick-mustached heavy-hitter; Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), a philosophical hippie stoner and well-respected pitcher; Dale (J. Quinton Johnson), a smooth talker and the team’s only black player; Plummer (Temple Baker), a kinda-slow fellow freshman; and that’s only naming a few. There’s also Roper (Ryan Guzman), a fellow upperclassman ladies man; Billy Autry (Will Brittain), Jake’s no-fun roommate; Jay Niles (Juston Street), a hot-headed, loose-cannon outliner among his peers; and I hope I’m not forgetting anyone. It’s a scampering of hot-shot, sex-crazed, fun-loving men, a couple guys who want little more than to chug a few brews, bed a few women and live the night to the fullest. They’re young, dumb and full of cum, and in a matter of two hours, I felt like I gained nine new friends out of this experience.
Beyond my age and gender, I probably couldn’t be farther removed from these baseball studs. These confident-to-the-nines, prone-to-arrogance jocks with nothing but women and baseball on the mind are pretty much the exact opposite of the type of guys I’d hang out with during these formative years. They couldn’t give one lick about their grades, and they view ladies as little more than a challenge or obstacle to overcome — like everything in the early lives. But under Linklater’s gentle eye, that doesn’t matter. It’s evident the writer/director holds a clear love, a deep affection and a brotherly love for these party-hardy characters, and he makes their optimism shine, their cocksure attitudes endearing and their fun infectious in a completely organic manner. Linklater does a wonderful job of letting us join their friendship in the moment, and making us believe we’re right there with them as they hop from one bar to the next, or work their way from one house party to another, throughout these hormone-heavy nights of debauchery. You can practically smell the aroma of sweat, beer and weed sweeping through the air, and it’s absolutely intoxicating. Everybody Wants Some!! runs for less than two hours, but by the end of the night, I feel like I spend the whole weekend by their side — and I mean that in the best, sincerest way possible. Like Jake, we come to adore and admire each of these hard-headed numbskulls long before the film calls it quits.
Linklater does a wonderful job of letting us feel as though we’re watching these guys in real time. His direction, as patient and open-minded as ever, invites a remarkably palpable sense of place and time. Like the Before series or the aforementioned Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! feels breathed-in and wholehearted present. It’s fertile with charm and good vibrations, and it wants nothing more than for everyone to enjoy themselves for the ride. The film’s never afraid to let these guys spring to life on their own terms. And as their actions grow lewder and their behavior more brash, Linklater somehow makes them seem even more sweet and charming than they did initially.
The greatest feather in its cap, however, comes from exceptional ensemble, along with their honest chemistry together. While Linklater’s writing is always on-point, with more golden one-liners than one can count showered throughout, the cast ultimately makes-or-breaks this one. And, thankfully, they never let the veteran Austin filmmaker down for a second. It’s clear everyone on-screen is having an absolute blast, and that flows directly into the viewing experience. There are no weak links in this bunch, but Powell, Russell, Baker and Zoey Deutch, as Jake’s theater-major love interest Beverly, are the standouts. Powell wields a swagger and maturity well beyond his years, while Russell inherits and fits into the scene-stealing charisma of his father, Kurt Russell, like a glove. I think they’re both going places after this. Baker’s deadpan delivery never fails to sell a hard laugh, and Deutch plays a much-needed female presence in these proceedings — posing an affability and wit that makes her easy to like and quick to love.
Any sense of conflict is completely absent here, and the plot is practically non-existent. But you don’t care for a second. The mood is never less than agreeable and the fun times are shared by all. And have I mentioned the killer soundtrack yet? More than merely a nostalgic well-fulfillment time trip or a collection of greatest cinematic hits for the dialogue-heavy filmmaker, Everybody Wants Some!! is Linklater working entirely in his element. It finds the filmmaker completely mastering the art of his Zen, combining all the best aspects of his work into one righteous alive, completely attentive masterwork that’s completely comfortable in its own skin and never afraid to become itself. It’s practically destined to be among the cinema’s most well-tuned, vigorously passionate contributions, and I can’t say enough positive things about it.
There are more than a few shortcomings I’m neglecting to mention here. The watchful male gaze of its fifty-year-old director on these scantly-clad women half his age grows a little too creepy for its own good, and some of the cast members, including our lead, are perhaps just a little too indistinguishable from one another at times. But it’s easy to shrug off these concerns because of how much it gets right. Everybody Wants Some!! is a beautiful return-to-form for Linklater and a graceful transition from his coming-of-age small-scale epic Boyhood. There’s a lot to love about this one, and if you’re willing to have a good time, it’ll only leave you wanting more.