Boyhood, Linklater’s Oscar-nominated 2014 social experiment, beautifully documented in subtle fashion what it was like for a young boy to grow up over the course of 12 years.
The films in his Before trilogy (Sunrise, Sunset, and Midnight) each focus squarely on the same couple, and we watch as these two walk and talk and talk and talk, examining their own relationship as it evolves.
Dazed and Confused, the instant classic saga of Austin, Texas, high school kids in search of a party on the last day of school in 1976, featured a cast of up-and-coming actors mostly talking, driving around, and hanging out — when they weren’t getting high, of course.
Now, Linklater returns to school with Everybody Wants Some!! (yes, there are officially two exclamation points in the name), what the writer/director is calling his “spiritual sequel” to Dazed. That means we’re still in Texas (natch), but it’s four years later and none of the characters are the same.
Like Dazed, EWS centers on a more introverted male character who falls in with a bunch of extroverts. Specifically, Jake (Blake Jenner, from Glee), who spends the film settling in at a fictional university the weekend before the start of classes. Jake lives with his baseball teammates, a collection of bros who are always on the search for girls to sleep with. And over the course of two hours, we watch as they compete to see who is the most masculine and/or desirable member of the team/house, whether they’re driving around the campus, hanging out at bars, warming up before the season starts, or playing ping pong in the house. (“Have you noticed everything around here is a competition?” Jake asks at one point. “Even the bong hits.”)
Yes, that’s the entire gist of the movie: EWS is basically two hours of bros being bros.
The cast is rounded out by a new group of up-and-comers, including Tyler Hoechlin (TV’s Teen Wolf), Wyatt Russell (22 Jump Street), Ryan Guzman (The Boy Next Door), and Glen Powell (The Dark Knight Rises), who play a mix of macho, stoned, naive, and dumb-as-bricks guys with names like Coma, Knuckles, Beuter, and Raw Dog. The guys all have an easy chemistry — a good thing, since the film hinges on how convincingly they all interact — and they deliver Linklater’s snappy dialogue like it’s coming naturally to them. (“What the Charlie Pride are you talking about?” is a particular favorite line of mine.)
The setting feels so familiar, I half-expected to see Matthew McConaughey’s Wooderson make a cameo appearance outside one of the bars the team frequents.
What makes EWS a special movie, though, is that rather than coming off like a Porky’s retread, and focusing all on the pursuit of sex, the film is more about how college is that time in your life when you move out on your own and start to become your true self. When your life reboots and anything is possible.
And it celebrates college as a magical time that nothing will ever match. (One character even gets thrown out for trying to extend his experience a little too long.) Especially for these baseball players, who are treated like kings on and off campus — no cover charges, free food and beer … it’s all “part of the scholarship.” These guys are here for a good time, not a long time, and they intend to enjoy every single minute of it before they’re just “some dude doing some job just like anybody else.”
In the middle of all this, Jake meets a smart freshman named Beverly (Zoey Deutch, from Dirty Grandpa), who instantly recognizes that he isn’t like all the other guys on the team. She’s a drama major, who, like Jake, is starting at the bottom after a successful high school career — one of many competing for a spot on the team — and the two bond over the potential that college presents.
Linklater includes an adorable scene where the two are on the phone, and it’s presented in split screen so you can see each of their reactions. Jake is trying to be all cool like his teammates, and she disarms him with the kind of intelligent perspective he’s had too little of till then.
Likewise, Everybody Wants Some!! is the kind of movie audiences don’t get enough of — except when Linklater makes them. Like Dazed, this is a perfect kick-back-and-chill movie, a cocktail of fastball jokes and unexpected wisdom (“Embrace your strange”) that goes down easy. And yes, it’s all backed by an awesome soundtrack (“Whip It,” Heart of Glass,” among other ’80s classics). Of special note is an amusing sequence where a bunch of the guys perform a flawless, unironic rendition of the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” Also, be sure to stay for the scene during the end credits where the cast raps in character.
Throughout, the film reminds us how much time is left till classes. It’s a less than subtle allusion to the fact that in life, the time for fun is limited. We’ll need to settle into responsibility all too soon.
But not just yet.
For two hours, we get to bro out and be a part of Linklater’s world, one where relationships matter, and time is precious. Don’t resist this movie. As one character says, “Let the experience find you.”
I’m giving Everybody Wants Some!! an A–.