Throughout his career, director Richard Linklater has proven himself to be one of the most versatile, unpredictable and consistently interesting modern American filmmakers. With this, his 17th feature, the Texan auteur returns to the stylistic and aesthetic principles of his much loved cult classic Dazed and Confused. Just like that 1993 film, Everybody Wants Some!! is a nostalgic, rock ‘n’ roll fuelled celebration of youth culture, peppered with memorable characters, pitch perfect dialogue, a potent sense of time and place and an absolutely cracking soundtrack.
Set on a fictional college campus in 1980, the action takes place over one weekend before the beginning of the academic year. The central protagonist is Jake (Blake Jenner), a baseball major who moves into a house with fellow players. The film focuses on his inaugural weekend as he bonds with his new teammates, drinks, parties and embeds himself into the hedonism of college life. Like many of Linklater’s films, the plot is thin but the world his story inhabits is utterly irresistible.
This is ultimately a film about the male experience within the context of the American university system and it glorifies fraternal culture without any hint of cynicism or critical analysis. In light of the recent well publicised rape case at Stanford University, this puts the film in a tricky moral position and it is understandable that the subject matter will be off putting for some. In less capable hands, this could easily have been a puerile, crass and offensive waste of time. Yet, the film succeeds due to the director’s humanistic approach, whimsical tone and strength of it’s characterisation. Jake and his comrades are decent guys, endearing and likeable, each blessed with a unique screen presence. Linklater should be applauded for his casting choices as well. The performances from this group of relative unknowns are uniformly excellent. As the film progresses, the likes of Jay (Juston Street), Roper (Ryan Guzman), McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) and Willoughby (Wyatt Russell) earn your affection and are likely to be regarded with the same affinity as Randall Pink Floyd, Ron Slater and Mitch Kramer from Dazed. Prior to shooting, Linklater had his cast gather on his ranch in order to bond and get to know each other. This technique has worked a treat as the chemistry and bonhomie between the ensemble comes across as genuine and convincing on screen. It’s undoubtedly a male dominated story, but the ladies are ably represented by a salient turn from Zoey Deutch as Blake’s romantic interest Beverly. While brief and fleeting, the scenes between the pair are beautifully crafted and one of strongest elements of the film.
Where Dazed and Confused perfectly captured the spirit of 1976, Everybody Wants Some !! similarly evokes an authentic retrospective overview of campus life in 1980. Every detail is meticulously constructed to capture the atmosphere and tone of the period. It doesn’t have the poignancy or emotional depth of Linklater’s more nuanced works such as Boyhood or the Before trilogy, but is still a fine addition to the director’s deeply impressive oeuvre. A well observed ode to a bygone era and refreshing anecdote to these cynical times… Just like the Van Halen song that shares it’s title, Everybody Wants Some!! rocks.