Written & Directed by Richard Linklater
Richard Linklater’s style, for those unfamiliar, is often unstructured to the unsuspecting eye. His films often center around characters doing things and talking, with very little to really drive the plot forward in a traditional sense. His most famous films, and likely my favorites of his as well, are Boyhood and the Before trilogy, consisting of Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. While Boyhood takes place over many years, its objective is to observe its main character and his transformation from a young boy to a young adult. The Before films take place in a much more concentrated time period, but also simply observe the conversations of a couple of people. The strengths of these films are found in what the characters represent and what their actions and words indicate about their character. Linklater has become among the best in exploring deeper meaning of self worth and discovery through exploring simple conversations and every day life. Everybody Wants Some!!, which has been marketed as the “spiritual sequel” to his previous film Dazed and Confused, which also takes the non-narrative approach, follows in his previous films’ footsteps by both lacking plot, and being a wonderfully made, thought provoking film.
Most of Linklater’s work can be linked back to his own experiences, so knowing that he played college baseball while at Sam Houston State helps inform the types of things he focuses on in this film about a freshman pitcher named Jake (Blake Jenner) at fictional Southeast Texas University, his various teammates, and the shenanigans they get themselves into the weekend before classes start for the school year. The baseball team lives in two off campus houses, and the sixteen players who live in those houses are competitive to say the least. Everything becomes a competition for these macho baseball players, including hoping to hook-up with eligible coeds. Jake is no different, but a fellow freshman named Beverly eventually catches his eye, and his pursuit becomes more specific. Days before school starts, Jake and his teammates enjoy live uninhibited by adult responsibility.
At its surface, Everybody Wants Some!! is absolutely a movie about nothing, but as events and specific moments unfold, more is revealed not necessarily about the character of these ballplayers and their motivations, but about the truths of not just college, but life in general. Mostly highlighting the team going out, partying, and looking to get laid, Linklater delicately places just enough dialogue in between which reveals the finer points of his intentions while also letting the sequence of events also place meaning on an otherwise meaningless weekend of partying before the school year. As a character points out, they spend one night dancing and drinking at a disco bar, then the next at a honky tonk, and finally they find themselves at a punk rock show. The eclectic mix comes with entering college with an open mind, and allowing the possibility of finding yourself.
As McReynolds reveals, college is the level where you’re no longer the best player on your team. It’s the level where you’re no longer the smartest person in your class, and it just gets harder and harder the older you get. The grind never ends, but there is a certain charm to this concept. College is where you have to grow up. And then you graduate and you have to grow up again. There are some, like Willoughby, who perhaps never do grow up, while others like Jake, who keep an open mind to the possibilities of things around them, are more advanced than others. Linklater reveals this team with many different personalities, and at first it may seem a little jarring, but I know these people. I’ve been on this team before. Spending most of my life in a baseball dugout, I can tell you guys are like this. They make a competition out of everything, and can be obnoxious about it at times as well. The Everybody Wants Some!! team may meet the extremes of these personalities for cinematic effective, but they don’t ring false.
Linklater has once again crafted a film “about nothing” which also manages to explore the depths of the meaning of life. As with Dazed and Confused, which takes the caricature of the famous Wooderson character and manages to have him deliver perhaps the most philosophical quote of the movie when he proclaims, “You gotta just keep livin’ man.”, Linklater ends the party with a poignant conversation between two young people who are beginning to find themselves, to understand what it is about life, about college, which makes for a wonderful adventure. You’ve got to have an open mind, put yourself out there. Everybody Wants Some!! is a fun party movie with a bunch of bros doing bro things, yes. But it also has a subtle undertone which comments on the condition of happiness, what motivates us to pursue it, and to pursue it the way in which we do. Once again Linklater has written characters which are both fun and each serve a purpose in the “non-narrative” he is trying to tell behind the facade of a good time, making Everybody Wants Some!! not just an entertaining movie, but a thought-provoking one as well.