What is there to like about Everybody Wants Some!!, the latest film by director Richard Linklater?
This is a tough question to pin down. Recently, I’ve been speaking with professional critics and one of the biggest takeaways from our conversations has been the difficulty to put a film that you really like into words that are both comprehensible to the public and satisfactory for you as a writer. That becomes exponentially more difficult when you have a movie like this that carries many of the same qualities as previous Linklater films, but also begs to be analyzed in a fresh context.
In my first draft of this review, I think I harped on too much of those similarities. It is easy to compare this latest film to other works in his resume like Dazed & Confused or the Before series or Slacker or Boyhood, but what is really compelling about that? We already understand that. For God’s sake, the quote “spiritual sequel to Dazed & Confused” is on the damn poster.
It is somewhat ironic that I would fall head over heels for Everybody Wants Some!! (which as of April 25, when I’m writing this, is my favorite film so far this year). This college experience in no way mirrors my own. I wasn’t going to parties every night and bringing home beautiful women each time. In fact, it was the complete opposite (I think I was more the person sitting at home digging into the backlog of this director’s work instead).
What really is endearing about Everybody Wants Some!! is that the title doesn’t only reference to the Van Halen song of the same name, it also references to us, as the audience, as we become inclusive in this world.
It is the beginning of college for Jake (Blake Jenner) and he is entering the residency of seven other baseball players at the school. Jake is a freshmen pitcher for the team and he is looking to find some form of kinship with this rag tag group of men, including Finnegan (Glen Powell), Roper (Ryan Guzman), McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), and Dale (J. Quinton Johnson).
At the same time, we are too. There is something endearing and familiar about this group of guys. I didn’t run with this crowd in school, but I am all too familiar with them. Being in both direct and indirect contact with baseball teams all my life, I have seen each one of these kinds of guys come through a locker room — the one who talks heavily about his professional prospects and brags about his piercing fastball, the one who is constantly messing with the others to gain a laugh, the one who is a little too macho and focused to really allow for any sort of friendship.
These archetypes fit the bill of the baseball team and Linklater captures them in their essence nearly perfectly. Much like the group in the movie, a college baseball team is never filled up with bad or mean guys. They’re all a little twisted and goofy — as much as they’d love for you to see them as tough and rugged. They encompass all of us as we find our way — we heighten our personalities in order to endear ourselves to people we think we want to befriend.
But, what is most endearing about them is the familiarity. This may not be a world most people are accustomed to, but over the course of two hours, it is everyone’s world. We laugh along with them as they prank the other players, we smile as they lace on their charm and take a girl up to their room — defying the orders of the coach that were laid down a few minutes before — and we clap as they find some sort of resonating companionship among the group and establish themselves in a more genuine fashion.
I think Linklater’s gift is in establishing a part of middle America that seems foreign to others and mirroring to the rest, but makes it something we can all be associated wih. I think some people come into his films and their biggest gripe is that he is working with characters that seem far from their cultural or socio-political views and they feel like there is a distance between who is on the screen and who is in the audience seat.
In all actuality, Linklater is attempting to bring us all in. You may not have been a jock while in school, but there is still something resonating in these characters with you. These men are seeking more than face value and that quest for clarity is universal. As we maneuver through school, we are always trying to establish our true selves and Linklater is activating that portion of us rather than the more transparent façade the cover of his films may paint.
It is tough to pinpoint why parts of this resonated so deeply with me. Maybe somewhere deep down, I wanted it to be like this. I wanted to have the courage to speak with a girl so effortlessly, I wanted to have a comradery that was both harsh and brotherly, but also tender and encouraging. I believe what is most effective about this film, and of Richard Linklater in general, is that he forces us not only to reckon with the annals of life and time, but that in the end, even if we don’t completely feel like we fit into the mold he has constructed, we, like everyone else, want some too.