Richard Linklater’s ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ scores with charming characters, profound humor

Paramount Pictures/Courtesy

Said to be a “spiritual sequel” to cult classic “Dazed and Confused,” Richard Linklater’s newest gem “Everybody Wants Some!!” feels equally like a quasi-sequel to his critically acclaimed and award-winning masterpiece “Boyhood.” Where “Dazed” followed the life of a bunch of jocks, nerds and stoners over the course of their last day of high school in the ‘70s, “Everybody Wants Some!!” takes place in the ‘80s as we follow a studly college freshman baseball pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner of “Glee” fame) as he bonds with his bro-tastic teammates and lives up his newfound freedom the weekend before classes start. Or, starting exactly where “Boyhood” ended.  

“I hadn’t really planned it that way, but I thought, ‘Oh well, that’s kind of perfect,’” Richard Linklater said in an interview with The Daily Californian, as he began developing the script of “Everybody Wants Some!!” during the 12-year shooting process of “Boyhood.” “I remember saying, ‘Yeah, there would be this continuation, of very different characters,’ and then the success of ‘Boyhood’ — whatever that was — kind of helped me get it made.”

Different than both of the aforementioned films, “Everybody Wants Some!!” is more purely comedic in nature. The film is about the bonding of the college baseball team in 1980, as they go to four parties over the course of the three days leading to the beginning of classes. Because of this setup, a lot of the early parts of the film are set around the sex-drive these bulky, testosterone-filled athletes have. The “some” that everybody wants is explicitly shown. At least initially, women are just objects of desire and sexual playthings for these young, seemingly immature men.

“It’s really about me adapting the script to this new cast I have,” said Linklater. “To me, that’s the crucial creative moment.” While, in typical Linklater fashion, the film isn’t plotted heavily, he knew a lot of rehearsal had to go into fine-tuning the characters in order to make sure they are likable in the long run.

“That alchemical, you know, magic happens there,” he laughed. “And that’s where the text, these pre-conceived ideas meet real people, you know, that you’ve been trusting to carry this spirit of the movie. So that’s the moment there. And it’s important in every film.”

This is how the film reveals itself to be deeper than your normal “Animal House”-inspired sex-college comedy, which shouldn’t be a surprise with Linklater at the helm. The film is more interested in subtly exploring how these young men cope with the complete freedom of college. There are no parents to tell them no to going out late to a party. There are no coaches to punish them when they break house rules. To top everything off, they’re all competitive athletes with something to prove.

Even with this well-navigated setup, Linklater smartly creates an ensemble of characters the audience cares about. And thanks to an uncharacteristically charismatic ensemble of a bunch of relatively unknown actors, once the film hits its groove about 30 minutes in, the entire cast is irresistible and carries the film for a home run.

“It’s really rare to get a film made without big stars,” Linklater said. “No studio does that anymore. They did it with ‘Dazed’ a long time ago. I mean, they’re stars, they’re just not box office (stars) today. So I think, I hope they will be stars.”

This is best exemplified when Jake bonds with a few of his teammates, Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), Dale (J. Quinton Johnson) and Plummer (Temple Baker) as they take turns doing a bong rip in their team’s house. As these young men just hang out, get high and listen to late ‘70s rock ‘n’ roll, it appears like not much is happening. Yet, due to perfectly crafted performances, even this seemingly throwaway sequence becomes something much more. Willoughby pleads with the other young men not to be afraid of embracing their “inner strange,” in between seeing which one of the gang has gotten so high they now have telepathic powers.

Or how the standout character in “Everybody Wants Some!!,” Finnegan (in a star-making turn from Glen Powell), gets the gang to sing an acapella version of “Rapper’s Delight” one moment. He then comments on how un-nuanced the rest of the guys are when it comes to sympathizing with women; thus, they’ll be unsuccessful with the women that are worthwhile. It’s all good and fun, but there’s always something more.

This practically illustrates the thesis of the film. While, initially, the film follows these horny men hell bent on getting some — in comedic fashion — it turns out that’s just one small aspect of who these people are and what they stand for. They’re an inclusive group who are willing to hang out with the punk kids one night and go masquerading at a party hosted by the school’s theater students the next.

“Everybody Wants Some!!” morphs, revealing subplots in the way the actors themselves reveal layers. Take the winningly romantic element late in the film, in which Jake falls hard for a hard-to-get acting student Beverly (Zoey Deutch). While she can see straight through Jake’s teammates’ intentions, she sees the good, thoughtful person that is within him.

Much like the characters, once you look past the surface of “Everybody Wants Some!!,” you see the humanity in it all. The cracks in the egotistical facades these characters have show the deep longing they have for trying to understand themselves now in the complete freedom granted with college. Is there anything more relevant than that?  

Levi Hill covers film. Contact him at [email protected].