Through two parallel veins of his filmmaking career, director Richard Linklater freely operates between free-wheeling fun and poignant realism with scant middle ground. His movies are either a party or a deep character study. It’s a wonder the same guy who can make “School of Rock” and “Dazed and Confused” is the same creative force behind “Boyhood” and the “Before” trilogy. Kick back and turn off the introspection for “Everybody Wants Some.” This is a shameless dudes’ flick and Party Linklater of the highest order. Those of you with Y chromosomes are going to love every minute.
“Everybody Wants Some” begins on August 28, 1980 on the lush campus of the fictional Southeast Texas University (played by Texas State University in San Marcos). It’s less than a week before the first day of class when new freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) motors into campus in his Oldsmobile 442. He is an eager college baseball prospect and is instantly welcomed into the fold by a cast of colorful teammates. Chief among them are the power-hitting team captain Glenn (Tyler Hoechlin) and the smooth-talking upperclassman Finnegan (Glen Powell). Not more than ten minutes after arriving, he has a beer in his hand and girls in his field of view.
At this school, the perennially successful baseball players are the top dogs and biggest swinging d-cks on campus. Like any squad of jocks, they are a special breed of cool and cocky. Every single one of them are alphas males brimming with confidence. They swim in a sea of Lone Star and Schlitz and can party like kings with any crowd or any scene. Backed by his teammates and new friends, Jake dives right into this world of house games, pick-up lines, bar-hopping, dance halls, and campus keggers. Through the attractive fog, he sets his eye on impressing a cute theater major named Beverly (Zoey Deutch).
Honestly, you’re not going to find much of a traditional narrative in “Everybody Wants Some” and that’s not a bad thing whatsoever. The film has roots in the sex farces and college comedies of yesteryear without the cliche of a villainous element or central trivial dilemma to conquer. Outside of very brief dashes of existential reflection on team-building and proper courtship, we simply watch these guys operate and clown around during an endless schedule of soirees for two hours. Not all of those fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants tangents work, but little momentum or enjoyment is lost. Easy and breezy works just fine.
What makes this slippery slope work is the instantly likeable chemistry of this mostly unknown ensemble. Linklater has a knack for assembling and discovering talent. Most are making their feature debuts. Following names like Affleck and McConaughey, he has found a complete team of new winners. Remember names like Jenner, Hoechlin, Powell, Deutch, Ryan Guzman, Wyatt Russell, Austin Amelio, Will Brittain, Juston Street, J. Quinton Johnson, Forrest Vickery, Temple Baker, and Tanner Kalina. You’ll be seeing their faces again. There’s not a bad apple in the bunch and each have their memorable individual moments of chicanery and charm. The two that will attract you the most are Blake Jenner and Glen Powell. We always gravitate to the lead and Jenner shows he isn’t all jock. Next to him, Powell is absolutely electric as the life of the party and purveyor of all wisdom. His character could single-handedly write volumes of this review’s life lessons.
The film moves on its own infectious energy and is handsomely rich in nostalgic, period-perfect fashion, music, and hair to sell itself even more. The back-and-forth dialogue of these guys is chock full of ball-busting and button-bursting banter at every turn. As a straight comedy, “Everybody Wants Some” is arguably funnier than “Dazed and Confused” (yeah, I said it). The laughs rarely stop in frequency, gratuity, or cleverness, all boons for an exemplary college farce. That is the strength of Linklater, the writer, while his directing side steered the actors to make it all look natural. You can tell this had to be a blast on set with a blooper reel that could go on for days.
Lesson #1: With athletes, everything is a competition— This team has been trained to be addicted winners. Every situation has room for competitive tomfoolery. They can make a contest out of anything and everything. Internally, there is a magnetism to that constant competition. Competition reveals character. That merging and strengthening of character brings them together and builds their friendships.
Lesson #2: Texans can dance— Damn, Texas! 1980 was the summer of “Urban Cowboy.” That film showed us guys in sh-tkickers throwing it down. This film will add disco and punk rock to that legend as these players have a repertoire for any music and its matching wardrobe. The ladies eat it up. To think, in four years, “Footloose” would hit next.
Lesson #3: The extroverted cool confidence of college athletes— The overwhelming majority of “coming-of-age” college films are populated by awkward, introverted wallflowers trying to find their voice and niche on campus. That is absolutely not the case in “Everybody Wants Some.” College athletes, especially the male ones, are walking machismo. Every single one of these players were the studs of their high school and carry themselves with effortless confidence. To watch a college film comprised entirely of extroverts is a breath of fresh air. It’s nice not swallow insufferable angst.