EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! * * 1 / 2
Starring Blake Jenner, Glen Powell, Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell and Zoey Deutch. Written and directed by Richard Linklater.
“Here for a good time, not a long time,” announces Wyatt Russell’s stoner-philosopher Willoughby, the “spiritual sequel” to Matthew McConaughey’s Wooderson, near the end of writer-director Richard Linklater’s “spiritual sequel” to Dazed And Confused.
Like a lot of the easygoing Austin filmmaker’s work, Everybody Wants Some!! is preoccupied with the ephemeral — fleeting moments on the cusp of becoming memories. The thesis of Linklater’s most effective films was maybe best summed up by his fellow Texan Willie Nelson way back when he wrote: “Ain’t it funny how time slips away?”
Well, it is and it isn’t. Despite Mr. Willoughby’s assertion, a fair amount of the two hours spent watching Everybody Wants Some!! could be classified as a time perhaps longer than good. Set in the fall of 1980, the film follows a rowdy Texas State baseball team settling into their off-campus animal house on the weekend before classes start. We see it all through the eyes of Jake (Blake Jenner), a lanky freshman pitching prospect who, like most members of the cast, looks at least six or seven years too old for his role.
Shapeless in the way only Linklater can get away with these days, the film is content to drift with the dudes and their aimless conversations, chasing tail and getting wasted at one party after another. A countdown ‘till classes start appears sometimes in the lower right hand corner, reminding us this idyll wasn’t meant to last. But it’s really not much of a threat because these guys just aren’t that interesting.
I understand and respect what Richard Linklater does while remaining something of an agnostic. With the exception of the Before sequels (I hated the original) his movies tend to take place at an emotional temperature that does nothing for me personally. Dazed And Confused has its moments (almost all of them belong to McConaughey) but it can’t hold a candle to American Graffiti. For starters, nowhere in Lucas’ film will you find a central character as dull as Jason London’s Randall “Pink” Floyd.
Linklater’s affinity for passive protagonists bores me to tears sometimes. (Imagine if the kid in Boyhood had half the personality of his parents? Do you even remember that Zac Efron was in Me And Orson Welles?) I get that this is all part of his modus operandi — capturing the low-key cadences of life beyond Hollywood artifice with a central figure mainly serving as an observer. But I often feel like the only movie characters more tedious than Linklater’s leads were played by Zeppo Marx.
Blake Jenner is just about that boring in Everybody Wants Some!! We spend most of the movie riding along with the boys as they ramble from a disco to a country bar to a punk show and then a drama party, trying on different identities and period fashion nightmares in their all-consuming quest to get laid, punching one another in the shoulder while bellowing interchangeable insults. Despite some shockingly cruddy digital videography, this isn’t an unpleasant film to watch. Sometimes it’s pretty funny, but it also feels maddeningly unspecific.
You could switch around any of the zonked speeches delivered by Russell’s bearded stoner with those from Glen Powell’s mustachioed monologist without altering a thing about the film –just a couple of blonde guys with facial hair espousing peaceful, easy feelings. They helpfully explain aloud the subtext about male competitiveness, and even with all the drinking and drugging and skirt-chasing nobody ever does anything particularly regrettable or ugly.
Nothing is even at stake until the final third of the film, when the freshman finally take the field for a practice with the upperclassmen and Everybody Wants Some!! abruptly bolts upright for some cutting character observations and something like suspense. Anchored by the devilishly charismatic asshole Tyler Hoechlin, this sequence feels like the first scene of one of the year’s best films, simmering with tension and performance anxiety. There’s nothing else like it in the rest of the picture.
Instead, we ease into the semester with Jenner’s Jake romancing Zoey Deutch’s incandescent young drama student, Beverly. The daughter of Lea Thompson and Pretty In Pink director Howard, Deutch is the spitting image of her mother and serves as such sweet relief from all the chest-thumping testosterone you’ll wish she’d showed up hours ago.
Indeed, the last scene of Everybody Wants Some!! arrives at such a perfect, bittersweet destination it’s tempting to forget how long we spent driving around in circles to get there.