Everybody Wants Some!!, the latest by Richard Linklater, that great subtle anthropologist of the mundane and the minute, concerns a bunch of douchebag jocks. The entire movie is a prolonged testosterone-driven hunt for T & A, with lots of beer and competitive ball-busting in between. Every character in the movie is a derelict, a meathead or a womanizer.
I loved every single minute of it. The movie is a joyride, every bit as good as Linklater’s perennial high school classic Dazed and Confused, and is destined to become one of the great American collegiate slacker films, up there with Animal House. Not one agreeable character in the film, and yet it’s a blast. What accounts for this is Linklater’s mastery of subtle character development, when it comes to both writing and filming choices. He captures the humanistic details of characters who might be outwardly quite unseemly. Here we’re dealing with the types of cocky athletes who used to beat guys like me up (I gave up hope of becoming a baseball star when I stopped growing at 5 foot 6). But Linklater is so gifted at making them relatable and three-dimensional, that he makes homunculi like me fall in love with them.
Boy, does this film make a graduating senior like myself jealous. If your first weekend at college was this good, you’d never want to go home. It’s an idealized world Linklater presents us with — no one, not at Cornell or any other university, has the good fortune to have a time as perpetually fun as these studs, but I’ll settle for watching them enjoy it.
Freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) comes to college with a crate of records in the backseat of his station wagon and “My Sharona” slammin’ on the radio. It’s August 1980 and there’s T-minus 72 hours before class—enough time to get loaded multiple times, hit a club or five, scrimmage on the ball field, meet a potentially long-term girlfriend and maybe even fall in love with her. Like I said, it’s an idealized world. Jake’s teammates are a bunch of hardcore alphas, for whom everything — ping pong, slaps, beer chugging, getting laid — is a competition, and anyone who falls behind in any context is mocked mercilessly. All are terrified of anyone sensing the slightest chink in their machoness and cover with constant jokes and ribbing. Remember, Linklater is a bona fide anthropologist, and this movie doesn’t only invite us to tag along with these guys, it also dissects them — their behavior is fascinating. Nerds will be hunched over their notebooks in the theater, scribbling down tips on how jocks appeal to the opposite gender — oh, special cologne, that’s how it works; interesting! That these studs remain so likable and don’t turn the audience off is again a tribute to Linklater, and to the endearing performances of these strapping young lads.
There’s too many of them to keep track of, but amongst the performers who stick out in memory is Glenn Powell as Finnegan, the notorious wisecracker who turns everything into a laugh. Tyler Hoechlin — picture the little boy from Road to Perdition; remember him? wait till you see him now — plays Glen, captain of the team, an Achilles-type who can slice a fastball in half with an axe and is one of the sorest losers ever. Zoey Deutch plays Beverly, the thespian queen whom Jake is beginning to fall for. She’s enchanting — if you think it’s a sitcom-type, listen to a perfectly titillating scene between her and Jake towards the end of the movie. Floating in the pool three hours before class, she and Jake discuss what Jake’s common app essay was about. He tells her it was about the curse of Sophocles, but that he added his own perspective to it. He feels the gods actually blessed Sophocles by giving him something to strive for, and that’s what everyone truly wants out of life — for him, it’s baseball. Beverly is impressed, and so are we. What begins as something charming quietly grows into something rather profound.
That’s true of the scene and of the movie. Some of these guys might seem like brainless deadbeats with nothing on their mind but ballgames and getting some, but with Linklater it’s never that simple. For one thing, it’s not all fun — Linklater has pointed out that in Dazed and Confused, there’s a sort of underlying cruelty beneath all the rosy nostalgia. There’s some nasty hazing routines Jake has to endure at the hands of his teammates, which is a familiar threat to many of us who’ve tried to join a winners’ circle. But under the surface these dudes might just be as wise and philosophical, with as much of a highly developed internal life as Linklater himself.
PS, this film is also a spiritual successor to Boyhood, and it’s as good as that one too.
Everybody Wants Some!! starts at Cinemapolis on April 22.
Mark Distefano is a senior in the college of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.