A well-oiled machine of a hangout movie from Linklater.
Everybody Wants Some!!
Few filmmakers can put together a hangout movie like Richard Linklater has, and his crowning achievement in that realm is, to this day, 1993’s high school cult classic Dazed and Confused. The movie’s trailer recommended you “watch it with a bud,” but most of us who’ve seen it know that there’s no need; Linklater’s wonderfully funny, charismatic, super cool characters are all the company you could ever want.
Billed as the “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused, Linklater’s latest, Everybody Wants Some, follows its predecessor’s formula to great success, its director’s tools now several times sharper than before. The two films share a general locale with both taking place in Southeast Texas, but while Dazed followed its characters on the last day of high school in the ’70s, the new film takes us to the early ’80s, following a fictional university’s baseball team as they shack up and party on over the long weekend before the start of the fall semester.
Bromance and romance overflow as we watch the boys get acquainted with each other and with the pretty girls scattered around their little college town. Our in is Jake (Blake Jenner), a chipper freshman who’s joining the team as pitcher. When he arrives at the semi-decrepit campus house designated for the team, he’s met with a mixed reaction: the older players don’t take kindly to pitchers, while Jake’s fellow wide-eyed newbies have no problem palling around. The common denominator is the team’s passion for partying, and party they do. By day, they laze about, smoke pot, sit in circles and space out to psychedelic rock records; by night, they’re tearing it up at local clubs and trashing their already-crumbling abode beyond recognition with all-night ragers.
While this may sound like a re-up of Animal House, the film actually skews more toward the arthouse, with Linklater threading some unexpected poignancy underneath all of the (incredibly funny, entertaining) shenanigans. Jake’s more than happy to partake in all the meathead madness, but as we learn more about where he’s from and the people he used to hang out with, it becomes clear that he’s a bit smarter and more compassionate than the lovable lugs he’s bunking up with. Jake’s full personality is brought out when he meets Beverly (Zoey Deutch), a theater major with the proverbial key to his heart. She has a way of stopping him dead in his tracks, and their hot August romance is a showstopper in itself; Jenner and Deutch are that rare onscreen couple who are so easy with each other that you suspect their romance may spill over into the real world.
Enough can’t be said about the rest of the feathery-haired cast as well. Square-jawed Tyler Hoechlin plays team captain McReynolds, whose violent competitive streak is at first repugnant, though his die-hard dedication to the team makes him more endearing as the weekend rolls on. Each of the dozen-or-so housemates has a similar, gradual development to their character that’s facilitated by both the memorable performances and Linklater’s uncanny dialogue, which sounds so natural it’s staggering to learn that absolutely none of it is ad-libbed. Some of the movie’s highlights involve the guys just lounging around, saying stupid stuff. It’s easy, simple viewing on one level, but the artistry lies in the affection that grows for the characters as we spend time with them.
Everyone will walk out of this movie with a favorite character, and the fact that (at my screening, at least) they varied wildly speaks to how great they are. There’s Finn (Glen Powell), the faux-intellectual ladies man; Dale (J. Quinton Johnson), the cool-as-a-cucumber, cultured team veteran; Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), the golden-haired, guru-like stoner with a secret; Beuter (Will Brittain), the cowboy outsider with a needy girlfriend back home. The list goes on, and every one of them is fantastic and hilarious. My favorite is Plummer (Temple Baker), a secondary character who nonetheless makes a big impression with his sleepy-dumb-guy appeal. I had a friend just like him in college (that’s a line you’ll hear a lot of people say walking out of the theater). This was actually Baker’s first acting role, but Linklater’s casting instincts are ridiculously good at this point in his career. The chemistry between the cast members is like butter, which is and always will be the key to hangout movies.
One of the most extraordinary things about Boyhood is that it doesn’t have any sort of forced dramatic agenda. It’s a quality Everybody Wants Some!! shares; there are no big fist fights, shocking betrayals or tearful breakup scenes to be found. There’s emotion running throughout, but it all flows and arises organically, which takes away a lot of the anxiety we’re used to swallowing in coming-of-age tales. This is easy viewing through and through, though that’s not to say it’s shallow. It’s far from it, in fact; living with Linklater’s characters as they explore life, unsupervised, without inhibition, engages the heart and takes you back to a freewheeling, optimistic state of mind and body that many of us let go of a long time ago.