Picture this opening for a moment: The opening credits come up on screen along with as a classic rock song kicks in. The song continues to play as the camera shows a car driving slowly around campus looking for a parking spot and some of the day to day activity at the school. If you’re a fan of Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, you may think I’m describing the opening of scenes of his 1993 cult classic set to Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion.” But it’s not. Rather this is the opening sequence to Everybody Wants Some!!, set to “My Sharona” by The Knack. Linklater himself has dubbed a “spiritual sequel” to his most famous movie, and it’s a film that embraces the transitional time period of 1980 and settles into a sweet spot of nostalgia, jock friendships, and parties.
Young freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner) is our entry point into this film. Arriving at college a three days before classes begin, Jake parks his car in front of the student housing that has been serendipitously assigned to the baseball team, two slowly-dilapidating houses side by side just off of campus. Walking in with his milk crate of albums, he is introduced in short order to other members of the team living there: McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) and Roper (Ryan Guzman) attempting to install a waterbed that threatens to collapse the ceiling over the kitchen; Finnegan (Glen Powell) and Willoughby (Wyatt Russell) commenting about said waterbed; Plummer (Temple Baker) who heard about the building might collapse; Dale (J. Quinton Johnson) who introduces Jake to him roommate Beuter (William Brittain). The film follows a barely-there plot through the next three days leading up to the first day of classes for Jake and his new teammates.
As I wasn’t born until 1981, I have no idea how genuine the look and feel is of everything that Linklater captures on screen. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, though, as this setting feels completely believable and nostalgic in the best way. I’m not going to spend much time comparing and contrasting this film with Dazed and Confused (confession, I’ve only seen it once), but where Dazed and Confused featured a soundtrack of pure classic rock, Everybody Wants Some!! (and yes, I will continue to use the two exclamation points) is set to a more eclectic and diverse set of songs, including the Van Halen song that the film derives its title from. Linklater treats us to arguably the best car sing-a-long in a movie since “Bohemian Rhapsody” when Jake and a few of the guys are belting out “Rapper’s Delight” on their way to a nearby watering hole. Their trek to booze is waylaid, of course, when they come across co-eds unloading their belongings as they move onto campus, one of which, Beverly (Zoey Deutch), catches Jake’s eye, and vice versa.
Beyond that, there’s not much point in explaining the plot of the film. There is a team meeting where the team’s manager lays down the two rules of no alcohol and no girls upstairs. Of course, rules are made to be broken. There’s a few more teammates introduced, including Jay (Juston Street), who is a tightly wound top pitching prospect; Brumley (Tanner Kalina), another incoming freshman; and Nesbit (Austin Amelio), who is prone to making stupid bets. The film goes from scene to scene of various iterations of these ballplayers hanging out together and waxing philosophical, dancing and drinking at the local bar (disco one night, country the next, even a punk rock scene gets sprinkled in), or throwing their own big parties. And since this is a baseball team, there is a little bit of baseball thrown in about 2/3 of the way through.
The cast is filled with a lot of largely unknown or little-known faces, much like Dazed and Confused was in 1993. All of them are natural and fit right into the environment that Linklater has provided them. It will be interesting to see how many of these actors go on to become more widely known like Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey and a few others did from Dazed and Confused. I think this works so well because using lesser known actors makes them a kind of blank slate that allows us to imprint ourselves onto the characters. The standouts, for me, were Blake Jenner as Jake, Glen Powell as Finnegan, J. Quinton Johnson as Dale, and Tyler Hoechlin as McReynolds.
There’s also a genuine love of the characters on Linklater’s part that shines through for every single one of them. There is no real antagonist or conflict driving the movie, even the guys on the team like McReynold and Roper, who are probably the closest the film comes to the stereotypical dumb jock, are still enjoyable, overall likeable characters who only occasionally act like jerks. We all have people that we know that are probably like some of these guys. They’re all hyper-competitive too, not just at baseball, but playing ping pong, knuckles, or whatever. And they’re constantly busting each others balls too. In short, they’re great characters that are a really fun to hang out with for nearly two hours.
Everybody Wants Some!! goes out of its way to make sure that it is not confused with a plot-driven film of any kind. Instead, it is all about the party and living in and enjoying the moments. It epitomizes the college experience of trying on new hats and seeing what fits and discarding when it doesn’t in the moment. One review I stumbled across called it the “arthouse Animal House.” That’s a very apt comparison. The film meanders from scene to scene, day to day, all with the specter of actual classes looming come Monday morning. It embodies the tone of its soundtrack, embracing the laid back, party atmosphere of friends and teammates hanging out together and partying and enjoying life. Given that real life rarely has the kind of conflict that most movie plots have, it embraces the leisure and comfort of friendship and camaraderie. When the credits rolled, I wished I could’ve spent a few more hours with these guys. In short, Everybody Wants Some!! is a great hang.
Rating 4 out of 5 stars