Blake Jenner Dazed and Confused

EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! Review: Meet Your New Friends

Monday, April 04, 2016 Rob Samuelson

Everybody Wants Some!!

Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Richard Linklater
Starring: Blake Jenner, Temple Baker, Glen Powell, Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell, Zoey Deutch
Rating: Four stars out of five
In limited release now

Richard Linklater has long been one of filmmaking's top documenters of how relationships begin. It's all over his career, from Before Sunrise to Boyhood to Dazed and Confused. 23 years after that last movie, Linklater has released his so-called “spiritual sequel,” Everybody Wants Some!! This story, about a freshman college baseball pitcher named Jake (Blake Jenner) moving in the weekend before school starts in the fall of 1980, shares none of the characters or setting of the earlier hangout picture classic. But its period setting, general lack of a plot, and fluttering in and out of storylines and characters feels of a piece.

Linklater's latest is an easygoing film, one seemingly destined to become an ear worm much like its predecessor, full of easily-quoted lines and characterizations plucked from just about any audience member's memory of people they have known. It's a picture with a refreshing lack of malice or villainy. Sure, there are jerks with egos too big for their abilities and the kind of personality conflicts one would expect in a group of so many far-flung people meeting each other for the first time, but the arc, however loose it may be, of Everybody Wants Some!! is coming from a desire for companionship and genuine curiosity in those around you.

That's where Linklater draws the greatest amount of truth in the story. These characters, almost all of whom live in their Texas university's baseball houses – essentially a sports fraternity – showcase the speed friends are made in the early days of college. Out of homesickness or simply looking to live up to their idealized understanding of the partying college life, they push and pull each other in every direction to have a good time. All they have is each other, so they may as well spend every waking hour together. This builds friendships quickly, giving everyone a crash course into each other's insecurities and the razzing made possible by those insecurities. Games of ping pong become titanic battles and guessing games between bong hits reveal the cognitive capabilities of each participant in enlightening and hilarious ways. There are false steps as these guys feel each other out, sometimes annoying one another, and sometimes coming to realize that not every relationship is worth cultivating. Everyone puts their foot in their mouth at least once throughout the film's runtime, reflecting the weekend-long span of the story to be something real and not a plot contrivance.

What issues there are arise in the presentation of these sharp characters. As can sometimes be Linklater's bugaboo, he and cinematographer Shane F. Kelly create a flat look to the proceedings much of the time. There are a number of bars visited by these players – a country hoedown type of establishment, a disco-loving dance hall, a punk show in a dive – and none of them ever has the look or feel of a bar. The lights all appear to be up at full blast, well after last call. This lighting highlights the film's inability to fully realize its 1980 setting by showing how crisp and almost plasticky the costumes are – they look like costumes when they would feel lived in if shot with slightly moodier or more colorful light.

The same goes for the hair, facial and otherwise. It's almost like Linklater and company spent too long in the casting process and found themselves bumped up against the start of shooting without allowing these actors to grow their hair to properly fit the era. It depends on the characters, but oftentimes haircuts and mustaches look pasted on, like a costume party rather than how these guys carry themselves in their day-to-day lives.

But these are minor complaints that melt away when the characters announce their presence, mixing and matching with a real chemistry and 1980 details that are more related to sociology than specific textures of clothes or hair. Car rides are soundtracked with whatever is “cool” on the radio – singalongs to Sugarhill Gang and Devo are some of the most joyful sequences – showing a fond remembrance for a time when there was a more communal sense of taste that people shared. CDs and later iPods and streaming services would allow future young people the ability to curate a sense of personality in their art, but it takes away from the “we're in this together” commonality on display in Everybody Wants Some!! These guys are willing to do whatever offers them a chance to have fun and they're willing to forget divisions in culture for a few kicks. That's an admirable, lovable quality to have in a movie.

It would do a disservice to this hangout film to avoid mentioning its standout performances. While Jake is ostensibly the lead and the audience's eyes into this goofy world of hyper-competitive goofballs, it is as much an ensemble as anything you'll see. Jenner creates in Jake a character who is an everyman, yes, but he's not a bland cipher – he's sweet and quick on his feet, able to get along with pretty much anyone he meets. The object of his first-weekend-away-at-school affection, Beverly (Zoey Deutch, who is basically a clone of her mother, Lea Thompson, in Back to the Future), is a sophomore who has things just a teensy tiny bit figured out and her affection for her theatre major (and their dress-up party late in the film) is so endearing that it's a no-brainer for Jake to take her to get ice cream. The star-making turn, though, has to belong to Glen Powell as Finnegan, an upperclassman on the team with interests that go beyond baseball. Those interests include never shutting up and being insufferably (but somehow still lovably) smarter than everyone around him to the point where everyone begins to seek his advice they initially rolled their eyes at earlier.

Those are just a few of the dozen or so people with memorable moments in such an enjoyable, good-natured film. As it ages, its chintzier production elements will likely fade because of the inspired camaraderie and true-to-life depiction of college life and how friendships begin.

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