Taking its title (and punctuation) from a Van Halen song and billed as a spiritual sequel to the era-defining Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! promises at the very least a good time and possibly something more as it charts a few days in the lives of some college baseball players. Taking place in August 1980 in the run-up to a new school year, Linklater has again perfectly captured a moment in time that’s heavily influenced by his own life experiences, crafting a movie that succeeds in large part due to that charming and believable specificity.
One thing that Everybody Wants Some doesn’t try to do is cast its net wide and cram in every archetype imaginable, like Dazed and Confused did to represent the high school experience. Instead the movie is more concerned with spending a meandering 3 days with a certain group of guys – mainly alpha dudes experiencing what may be the best period of their lives as they party and hang out, content in their ultra-competitiveness but still trying to figure themselves out. They drink, smoke, talk bullshit and break each other’s balls, but it’s all in service of a healthy lust for life that binds them.
That’s not to say that they’re dumb jocks, but the movie neither confirms nor denies the stereotype, instead revealing the character’s personalities and quirks gradually over its 2-hour runtime. At first it’s easy to classify them and tell them apart simply by their defining traits. We’re introduced to the group through rookie pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner), an unassuming lady’s man; McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) is the team leader headed to the pros; verbose Finnegan (Glen Powell) is the Matthew McConaughey-type charmer; Willoughby (Wyatt Russell) is the mysterious and stoned philosopher, and the team boasts no less than two resident weirdos and a whole host of other characters.
In time, through endless dialogue that’s also endlessly fun, you come to know these guys and get a taste for what life’s like for them. Sure, they funnel beer and stay out all night, but they also represent a certain wholesome masculinity, especially as it may have been in the turn of the decade from the 70s to the 80s. They define each other by their vinyl collections and competitive prowess, both on and off the baseball field. They were all the best in their respective high schools but now find themselves barely adequate in the heightened college environment, an experience that’s relatable and inevitable.
Everybody Wants Some is largely about that search for identity that many conduct in those years between high school and adulthood. The hippie Willoughby espouses Pink Floyd’s merits in a weed haze while talking shit about Van Halen, but most of the characters end up liking both (and the soundtrack benefits from their broad tastes*). These guys go to a disco one night, a country bar the next and then a punk show, a fact that the perceptive Finnegan even calls out. They’re trying on different skins to see which ones fit, and the characters are refreshingly up for a good time regardless of the circumstances.
That joy makes for an exceedingly fun movie that’s deceptively simple but slowly builds in depth. Sure, there’s a nearly full length rendition of The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” sung by a car packed full of guys (a la Wayne’s World) that’s great fun, but there’s also the kind of late-night philosophizing that the best all-night hangout sessions can produce. It perfectly depicts those moments that feel momentous and revealing at the time even though the morning light may prove those breakthroughs to be ephemeral (though a character successfully relates baseball to Sisyphus’ struggle in a poignant scene).
That inescapable passage of time (brought to life brilliantly in Linklater’s last film Boyhood) looms over all of Everybody Wants Some. There’s not a whole lot of conflict (it’s more about how guys relate to one another and bond) but one character does lose his status on his team, accepting his fate and good-heartedly lamenting “Here for a good time, not a long time.” That could double as the film’s motto as Everybody Wants Some, like Boyhood and much of Richard Linklater’s work, isn’t about the big moments but the small ones in between – the ones that pass by in a flash but add up to make us who we are. It’s a fucking great time too, drenched in the best type of nostalgia that rarely rings false and will make you ache for being a baseballer in 1980s Texas even though most of us never were.
(*About that soundtrack – Linklater has once again assembled an all-timer that may not quite rival Dazed and Confused but is great on its own merits. It’s super eclectic and bridges the 70s and 80s, combining the old wave and the new with artists like DEVO, ZZ Top, The Knack, Van Halen, Pete Townshend and The Cars.)
Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
Directed by Richard Linklater
Runtime: 116 minutes