Thursday, April 14, 2016

Movie Review: Everybody Wants Some!!

Everybody Wants Some !!
Directed by: Richard Linklater.
Written by: Richard Linklater.
Starring: Blake Jenner (Jake), Juston Street (Jay), Ryan Guzman (Roper), Tyler Hoechlin (McReynolds), Wyatt Russell (Willoughby), Glen Powell (Finnegan), Temple Baker (Plummer), J. Quinton Johnson (Dale), Will Brittain (Beuter), Zoey Deutch (Beverly), Sophia Taylor Ali (Beverly's Roommate), Austin Amelio (Nesbit), Tanner Kalina (Brumley), Forrest Vickery (Coma), Jonathan Breck (Coach Gordan).
Richard Linklater really does seem to despise the idea of plot in his films – and even by his own standards, Everybody Wants Some really is rather lackadaisical in terms of narrative momentum. The film has been described as a spiritual sequel to Linklater’s Dazed & Confused (1993) – which was about the last day of high school in 1976 for some upcoming seniors and freshmen that bleeds into a night of partying. On a recent re-watch of that film, I realized, more than when I first saw the film (when I was the age of the characters) how deep, and even melancholy, Dazed & Confused actually is – it isn’t a nostalgic look back at the “best time of our lives”, like, say George Lucas’ American Graffiti (1973) – a film Dazed & Confused is often compared to – was. As Roger Ebert pointed out in his review, if you actually showed the film to its characters two decades later – which is when Linklater made the film – it would probably evoke more madness and embarrassment than anything else.
Everybody Wants Some certainly shares some DNA with Dazed & Confused – it’s very easy to see its main character, Jake (Blake Jenner) as a slightly older version of Jason London’s “Pink” Floyd from Dazed & Confused – as both are popular star athletes, who are still able to flow naturally from one group to another – equally at home among the jocks as he is among the stoners. The film takes place in 1980 – and instead of one night, like Dazed & Confused, it’s one weekend. Jake arrives at the baseball house he will be sharing with his new teammates on the University team – he’s a freshman pitcher, who knows no one else. Throughout the weekend, he’ll get to know his teammates, party, drink, go from disco club to country bar to punk club to everything else, meet a few different girls – a one night stand, and someone else, perhaps a little more, and finally, go to class in the films last scene.
Comparing the film to Dazed & Confused, Everybody Wants Some is a far lighter film – it doesn’t contain the same feeling of being stuck, and simply waiting for your life to begin that the previous film had. Whether that’s because Linklater is now a couple of decades older – and more prone to nostalgia than he used to be, or because college is just simple a more optimistic place than high school – you’re actually away from your parents, and have that freedom you crave, and you’re on a path to what you want, even if some or all of these baseball players are unlikely to ever make the majors – you at least have it in sight – is open for debate. Linklater could have – clearly – made a much darker film here – a film about toxic masculinity, or one that addresses the decades old problem of sexual assault on college campuses, particularly by star student athletes – but he has chosen to make something lighter here. Some of the guys on the team are jerks – but they are mainly harmless jerks, are ultimately everything they do – from hazing to hitting on girls – is good natured. No real attempt is made in the film to see the girls in the film – outside of Beverley (a very charming Zoey Deutch), a theater manager Jake starts to fall for – as real people. The boys treats them as sexual conquests more than anything else. The film however, also doesn’t judge the girls (or the boys for that matter) for their sexuality either. Everyone seems to know the score, and they’re all out to have fun. Simple as that.
There is an easy, seemingly effortless charm to Everybody Wants Some that is actually, I assume, rather hard to pull off, or else everyone else would be able to do what Linklater does, and yet few seemingly can. Linklater avoids most of the pitfalls of movies like this by avoiding the so called “big, life changing moments” – which is something he has always done. If his 2014 masterpiece Boyhood was really just a series of the “most important” moments in Mason’s life, it would have easily turned deadly dull. Instead, in that film, he lingers on more everyday moments – moments that, if we’re being honest, Mason himself just may forget later in life, but are nonetheless, the stuff life is made up of. The same is true for Everybody Wants Some – which drifts easily from one party to another, one sequence to the next. There is a nostalgia here to be sure, but it isn’t a soppy nostalgia. Linklater grounds the film in the specific time and place of these baseball players – the film is often quite funny, and at times quietly perceptive. The cast is mainly made of actors I have never seen before, or at least ones I could not immediately identify. Watching Dazed & Confused today is amusing, in part because you can play “spot the movie star” – as so many of the actors in that film went onto successful careers – and quite a few others did not (what makes it more amusing is watching Dazed & Confused, is that if you were going to guess which ones were the future stars, and which ones weren’t, you’d be wrong at least as often as you’re right). Like that film, the ensemble of Everybody Wants Some is pretty much perfect, without anyone drawing undue attention to themselves. They fit together.
I have a feeling Everybody Wants Some will probably grow in my mind in the coming days and weeks – a lot of Linklater’s films do that, as at first they seem like minor, low-key comedies, although they gradually reveal themselves to be more than that. Dazed & Confused was certainly like that – I liked the film when I saw it as a teenager, but never felt much a need to revisit it until this film came out. Watching it a week and a half before seeing this one was an interesting experience – it seems a lot deeper and wiser now than it did in the past. Perhaps Everybody Wants Some will reveal that sort of depth over time – it doesn’t feel like it now admittedly – it feels like minor Linklater to be honest. But so do many of his films. It’s also, I must say, somewhat refreshing that Linklater – who likely could have followed up the massive success of Boyhood with something bigger, instead decided to stick to his roots. It’s what he does best anyway.

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