A bass drum kicks. The hum of reverberations buzz through a sound system. A guitar bangs some chords. Anticipation washes over an anxious crowd. Chills begin to run up their collective spine, as they wait to be transported through sound and choreography. No, I’m not describing the first concert for SXSW’s Music programming: I’m talking about opening night for SXSW’s Film section, and Richard Linklater’s rockin’ 80s throwback, Everybody Wants Some.
God bless Linklater for creating a movie that’s not only nostalgic and hilarious, but for telling a story that makes you feel something deep. Everybody Wants Some, named after the salacious Van Halen song, is, on the surface, a story about horny dudes yearning to slay some wild poon. Alpha males on the prowl. But, within one beautiful exchange of conversation, Linklater reveals a much softer, more fulfilling core to an otherwise frathouse period piece. Everybody wants some indeed – but he’s not talking about porno-quality sex. He’s talking about passion. Whatever crazy obsession fills your life with meaning, whether it be hitting a tiny ball with a metal bat, or writing about movies in hopes that someone enjoys your opinions (crazy, right?).
The year is 1980. The location, Southern Texas. Jake (Blake Jenner) is a freshman pitcher on his college baseball team, who prepares himself for competition, familial bonding, and four years of alcohol-fueled debauchery. He lives in a house with eight other players, whose neighbors are their other eight teammates. As expected, the practices are long, but the parties are longer, as the cast of characters navigate their way through hormone-drenched decisions that’ll have you squealing with laughter. Think American Pie, but with Linklater’s heart beating throughout.
Touted as a spiritual successor to Dazed And Confused, Everybody Wants Some revels in the warm, comforting glow of 80s freakishness. From disco to punk, Linklater explores the farthest reaches of popular culture through one primitive, generational constant – the quest for late-night eroticism. He never hides his heroic ballplayers’ true intentions, and brings audiences back to a care-free time when dreams flourished, inhibitions disappeared and freedom reigned supreme, but never without civility.
For how dumb and jockish some of the polo-wearing party boys seem, other more centered characters offer musings about life’s frivolity, and inner consciousness, somehow bringing philosophical weight to a booty-chasing adventure. This is the beauty of Linklater’s vision, which is able to balance charm and chaos in a single script.
The young male-driven cast is ripe with talent, up and down the roster. No exception. Glen Powell stands out as Finnegan, the quick-talking, always relevant leader who boasts charisma, intelligence, and cunning sense of perception unlike most of the single-minded players. On the other side of the spectrum you’ve got Temple Baker’s portrayal of Plummer, a freshman catcher with the same dumbfounded face plastered on his Abercrombie body.
Other standouts include Juston Street as the erratic and Ricky-Vaughn-esque Jay “Raw Dog” Niles, Wyatt Russell as a Twilight Zone loving stoner named Willoughby, and Tyler Hoechlin as the cocky, yet proven, team captain, McReynolds. But, again, the entire cast is aces. The whole lot. I could ramble on about J. Quinton Johnson’s suave charms as Dale Douglas, or Austin Amelio’s pitch-perfect role as the team’s resident wild card, but you don’t have that kind of patience, and I certainly don’t have the word count.
Yes, Everybody Wants Some centers around baseball, but it’s no Summer Catch – there’s only one real scene involving America’s pastime, yet, fans of hardball will still find themselves laughing at numerous game-related puns. From McReynolds slicing a soft-tossed ball in half with an axe, to references about mental benchwarmers, sports are used as a catalyst for bro-bonding and cheeky references more than physical depictions of strength.
Such a graceful sport gives way to poetic musings about deeply deplorable acts, channeling a primitive nature that shines sexual conquest in a societally accepting, willful light. Neither men nor woman are shunned for their actions, as both sides equally lust for a bit of skin-on-skin fun. Linklater approaches the subject with ample deft and naturalism, never chastising people for the things they crave.
Yet, leave it to a master of thematic inclusion to jump from pot-smoking ballplayers right into a comparison of Sisyphus and baseball. The otherwise tragic Greek story about a man sentenced to an eternity of rolling a boulder uphill is turned into a positive motivator in Linklater’s dialogue, as Jake claims Sisyphus is a lucky man because he’s been gifted purpose. He sees baseball as a similar “blessing,” because, while meaningless, it gives him a feeling of accomplishment, despite performing the same task over and over again.
This leads to a discussion about embracing that weird quirk that makes a person feel most alive, and an imploring message to embrace that fantastic sense of meaning. After delivering almost two hours worth of saucy fraternizing and riotous college buffoonery, Linklater is able to pack a meaningful, profound punch with a mere few lines of dialogue – a masterful move backed by sincerity and passion.
In many ways, Everybody Wants Some is a generational update on Dazed And Confused, right down to mirroring shots of sleek automobiles filled with smooth-talking young adults (a nod to McConaughey’s Wooderson). Take equally horny boys, adapt their livelihood to the 80s, and you’ve got yet another coming-of-age story that’s less about coming of age, and more about enjoying the ride. With vigor and enthusiasm.
It doesn’t get more feel good than this, and Linklater doesn’t get much better, in my opinion. In one, simple dialogue exchange, Richard Linklater has reaffirmed my crazy dreams of film criticism, since putting your opinions on the internet could be one one of the craziest fucking passions a person could have – but, dammit, it’s my passion, and Linklater sure reminded me of this.
I live to review films like Everybody Wants Some, and goddammit, I’m living pretty well right about now.