Everybody Wants Some!!

June 23, 2016
Blake Jenner in 'Everybody Wants Some!!' (2016)
Blake Jenner in 'Everybody Wants Some!!' (2016)

A drama about five Turkish girls oppressed by their narrow-minded relatives is hardly the ideal preparation for a consideration of Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! – a breezy time capsule set in 1980, featuring a group of jocks who have come to college to play baseball, seduce girls, and possibly attend a few lectures.

Not for the first time I found myself wondering: “Is that all they do in American higher education?” There have been so many films that revolve around male students’ relentless attempts to get laid that I’m prepared to believe it must be an assessable part of the curriculum.

We drive into a university town in Texas with freshman, Jake (Blake Jenner) who has come armed with a suitcase and a milk crate full of records. He has been assigned a room in a share house, his cohabitants being other members of the college baseball team whom he meets in quick succession. Finn (Glen Powell) is the self-appointed brains of the group; McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), the star batter and leading alpha male; Jay (Juston Street), the resident loon, and so on. Because it is 1980, moustaches and shoulder-length hair are de rigueur.

Jake’s arrival and induction into the group feels like a way of setting the scene, but after an hour one realises the entire film is one long exercise in scene-setting. In the space of a few days before classes begin Jake will have been to a full spectrum of clubs and parties, attended a team practice session, and hooked up with a theatre student named Beverly (Zoey Deutch). It’s an extended preamble without a story – although Linklater will undoubtedly come up with a sequel that takes us through the undergraduate years.

The director has already looked at the period from birth to the end of high school in Boyhood (2014), and made a film about the last day of high school in Dazed and Confused (1993). He seems to be putting together a multi-volume cinematic Bildungsroman (the so-called ‘novel of formation’) about growing up in Texas in the late 20th century. The progenitor of the genre is Goethe’s novel, Wilhelm Meister (1795-96) but Wilhem’s search for meaning bears little resemblance to Linklater’s characters’ quest for beer and sex.

The director has described Everybody Wants Some!! as a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused but to anybody who didn’t have an American suburban upbringing it may be hard to detect the spirituality in either film. It shows the importance that Linklater attaches to the ‘formative’ experiences of his youth.

Among the sacrements our heroes enjoy there is a night at a disco, a night at a country and western club, and one at a punk venue, along with two massive parties. It’s a terrible reminder of the fractured state of popular music in 1980. The reasons for attending any event are to get drunk and pick up girls.

On the plus side Linklater has given us a college film that avoids the usual gross-out excesses of the genre. There is a minimum of toilet and penile humour, and I can’t recall a single fart joke. Neither do the lads live exclusively on pizza, even though they guzzle vast quantities of booze. It’s rare that the jocks actually get to be the heroes of such a film. They are mostly portrayed as musclebound idiots outflanked by the weedy but loveable nerds with whom we are supposed to identify.

Everybody Wants Some!! takes its title from a Van Halen song, known for its Shakespearean lyrics:

Oh yeah, uh yeah, yeah, yeah

Everybody wants some

I want some too

Everybody wants some

How ’bout you?

That pretty much sums up the aspirations of most of the characters in this movie. They are warned by the coach that the only things strictly taboo in the house are drinking alcohol and taking girls upstairs. We know those rules will be broken at the first opportunity. The other great preoccuption is the pursuit of sporting excellence – or rather the need to win at all costs.

The film is an unashamed exercise in nostalgia, and never less than diverting. If it feels slightly empty that is an effect of the structure Linklater employs – of a chain of small incidents that don’t add up to a grand conclusion. It’s sobering, however, to leave this wild party and realise we have just seen the crucible that will form the future leaders of American society and business. It explains a lot.

Everybody Wants Some!!
Written & directed by Richard Linklater
Starring Blake Jenner, Zoey Deutsch, Juston Street, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Glen Powell, Temple Baker, Wyatt Russell, J. Quinton Johnson, Will Brittain
USA, rated MA 15+, 117 mins

Published in the Australian Financial Review, Saturday 25th June, 2016.