In 1993, Richard Linklater’s second feature, Dazed and Confused, helped solidify his status as an indie filmmaker to watch with its ensemble cast filled with actors who went on to bigger and better things, including Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck.
For Linklater’s follow-up to his Oscar-nominated 12-year project Boyhood, he decided to make a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused with Everybody Wants Some!!, rightfully being advertised as Linklater doing for ‘80s college life what Dazed did for the ‘70s. None of the characters from his beloved classic are back—this isn’t the “Before” series–although it’s another movie that reflects Linklater’s own personal interests and tastes, most notably baseball.
It’s days before the start of the school year at the fictional Southeastern Texas University (STU), and the freshmen players and a couple of transfers are welcomed into the baseball team’s frat house by the vets in their own inimitable style. Chief among the newbies is the fresh-faced pitcher Jake Bradford (Blake Jenner) who boasts an unusual confidence especially when it comes to the ladies, while McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), Roper (Ryan Guzman), and Dale (J. Quinton Johnson)—the only African-American in the group—are the team’s ringleaders who do what they can to haze young Jake.
There are a lot of players on the team, and it’s not easy to keep track of them at first, but much of the first hour involves them drinking and playing pranks on each other, making it an extremely juvenile film, which is surprising after the maturity of Linklater’s last two efforts. That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, because it’s another dialogue-filled screenplay by Linklater that covers a lot of philosophical bases while remaining on point.
Linklater has once again assembled a talented young cast of mostly unknowns to have these conversations, creating real chemistry between them. Things really pick up when the team actually gets onto the baseball field after an hour or so, not for an actual game but just for a first practice, and this is where each of their individual personalities truly come out. Some of the more memorable characters are Jay Niles (Juston Street), an arrogant hothead who thinks he’s God’s gift to pitching, and the more mature transfer Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), who introduces the younger ball players to music and drugs.
As much as it’s an ensemble film, the real breakout star of the film is Jenner, and when Jake meets up with Zoey Deutch’s Beverly, a drama student seemingly too smart to date a jock, the film takes one of its more enjoyable turns. Deutch is fantastic in the film, more than making up for her unwise decision to appear in Dirty Grandpa earlier this year. Jake is serious about his relationship with Beverly but when she invites him to an actors dress-up party, Jake’s teammates want to tag along, leading to some of the movie’s odder and funnier moments.
As was the case with Dazed and Confused, setting the proper mood for the time period often comes down to Linklater’s song choices, and his characters aren’t elitist about their musical preferences either. Whether they’re rapping along to the Sugarhill Gang in the car or dancing to the S.O.S. Band at the local disco, the spectrum is well covered with Blondie, The Cars, and of course, the title song by Van Halen.
These things come together into a film that feels very much like a culmination of Linklater’s filmography over the past two decades with each of the characters being some extension of his own personality or ideologies.
Everybody Wants Some!! isn’t for everyone, as other than the romance between Jake and Beverly begins, it’s a pretty testosterone-heavy affair, while those who haven’t had this sort of college experience, whether because they weren’t jocks or weren’t born in the ‘80s, may not be as open to its humor either. But all-in-all, it’s a fun film that stands out in a month normally filled with dreck just trying to get out there before the summer.
Everybody Wants Some!! is now playing.