The nostalgia around youthful days of ‘getting some’ and going to college/high school has fuelled countless comedies and dramas, not least of which is Richard Linklater’s 1993 film Dazed and Confused, a flashback to the last day of high school in 1976. This ‘spiritual sequel’ flashes forward to a couple of years to 1980, as a different set of characters prepare for a new chapter in their lives. Coming off the back of the epic 12 year production of Boyhood, Linklater returns to a style of filmmaking that gives both him and the audience some breathing room.
Opening on 28 August, 1980, EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! is framed around the three days or so leading up to the start of the college year. Freshman Jake (Blake Jenner), a star pitcher from high school, moves into a house with other members of his Southeast Texas baseball team. Jake, alongside Finnegan (Glen Powell), Roper (Ryan Guzman), Dale (Quinton Johnson), and Plummer (Temple Baker), spend their days competing each other in all manner of macho games, and their nights cruising the locals bars and clubs for new female conquests.
You may only notice about two-thirds of the way into the film that there is virtually no drama to the narrative at all. Following the group as they go from one activity to the next, Linklater has structured his film tightly around an absence of structure. A carefree rap-a-long in the car to Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” sets an early tone for the rest of the film, being a virtually uninterrupted couple of minutes of simply observing young men hanging out and having mindless fun over a specific activity. Whether it is sitting around and smoking, listening to music and discussing existential topics, or playing a version of baseball with axes in the backyard, the leisurely pace is evocative of our collective memory, regardless of whether the experience on screen was specific to our university years.
The film’s eclectic soundtrack, running the gamut from The Knack’s “My Sharona” to Patti Smith Group’s “Because The Night”, sets the pace for each scene. There’s an urgency to the more upbeat nightclubs, a relaxed sense of fun to the cowboy bars, and an intense energy to the punk bar (with a speed cover of the “Gilligan’s Island” theme, no less). Taken prima facie, the approach could be misconstrued as a meandering mess, but instead it’s hands-off nature allows the viewer something closer to active participation. “It’s about finding out who you are in the space between the notes they’re offering you,” muses Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), and truer words were never spoken, even if they are filtered through thick bong smoke.
EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! is kind of the antithesis of the male-centric jock films, or the over-the-top madness of modern frat fare like Bad Neighbours. It’s about young men competing in a tribal fashion, yet there’s neither malice nor judgment to the masculinity on display. There’s uncertainty about the future for some, while others are imbued with an absolute assuredness that baseball is the only path they have going forward. By the same token, Jake’s eventual blossoming romance (with a character played by Zoey Deutch) is neither the goal nor readily dismissed. It’s just another aspect of this authentic coming-of-age film that is infused with music and fashion of an era, but could be set in any time or place.
2016 | US | DIR: Richard Linklater | WRITERS: | CAST: Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Ryan Guzman | DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Films (AUS) | RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes | RATING: ★★★★½