Director Richard Linklater trafficks in unassuming authenticity. It is one of the qualities that nearly propelled Boyhood to a Best Picture Oscar a year ago. It is the reason Dazed and Confused remains his most broadly beloved film. And it is woven in to the fabric of his latest work, Everybody Wants Some!! Rightly described as a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused in many corners, Everybody Wants Some!! chronicles the harmless, hilarious hijinks of college baseball teammates over the weekend before fall classes start at an (entirely fake) big-time Texas school in the early 1980s.
It opens with its protagonist, freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner), blaring rock ‘n roll through the 8-track player in his stylish muscle car -- the kind Randall “Pink” Floyd or Wooderson would be happy to ride shotgun in -- and ambles forward aimlessly and pleasurably as Jake moves in with his teammates at an off-campus house and gets acquainted with all of them.
If it’s even possible, this is a less “serious” film than Dazed and Confused because it doesn’t deal so much in teenage angst. The daily struggle to belong, to carve out your identity while you’re still living under your parents’ roof and just be who you want to be, doesn’t come through here. And, y’know, really why should it? Isn’t that the difference between high school and college? Isn’t that why so many of us form much deeper bonds with our college drinking buddies than with the high school chums who we mostly made the best of things with?
Jake and his teammates -- an ensemble cast of vaguely familiar faces that includes Tyler Hoechlin, Ryan Guzman, Glen Powell, Wyatt Russell, Temple Baker, J. Quinton Johnson and Will Brittain -- don’t need to drive to Dallas to get Aerosmith tickets. They’ve got everything they need in their town, even the kind of musical variety that takes them to a disco club one night and a punk show the very next day. There is sex if you want it, but there might just be love too.
I realize that I’m perhaps displaying my own privilege in saying this (whatever that really means, anyway), but for many out there, myself included, Everybody Wants Some!! captures the very essence of being an undergrad. There isn’t much of a point to your existence on any given weekend, but there at least exists the freedom to explore every corner of it. You’re going to do a great number of stupid things with that freedom. Some weird things are going to happen along the way — most notably in this case, the revelation that one of the ballplayers is in his 30s — and you’ll just keep pressing forward.
Like so many of his other films, Linklater puts you on the couch next to these young gentlemen. You can smell the stale beer on the carpet and the smoke clinging to the walls. There is a comfortable intimacy to each scene. Linklater’s camera seems to find faces more easily than most, and to draw out natural expressions from them. This is another in a long line of ordinary-people stories from him, and yet again it is one that is told wonderfully.
I don’t long for the good old days of college, exactly. But every once in awhile I crave that sort of experience again for a brief window of time. Everybody Wants Some!! provides it, even if only for a few hours.