About halfway through Everybody Wants Some!!, the irrepressible Finn (Glenn Powell) imparts some philosophy on a couple of impressionable college girls: “The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way the atoms are put together.” If he were not quoting Carl Sagan in the hopes of getting laid, he might have been talking about Linklater, a director with a knack for bringing together uncertain elements and crafting them into films so entertaining they become heart-breaking to leave.
The film has the dual burden of thematically beginning right where Boyhood ended, as well as serving as a spiritual sequel to his 1993 film Dazed and Confused. But don’t let its similarly plot-less narrative fool you; it’s a tightly paced, riotous romp through an empty weekend before the first academic year begins anew at a Texas college. As an opening caption handily describes, it’s Thursday August 6th 1980, three days and 15 hours before class.
What EWS!! lacks in structure is more than made up for in its immensely likeable characters, ambling their way towards Monday morning in a haze of testosterone, sex and the faint smell of marijuana. Our closest reach for protagonist is Jake (Glee’s Blake Jenner), whom we follow into the competitive world of college baseball and the film’s lively fraternity.
At first older housemates, including the aforementioned Finn and hot-headed baseball ace McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), make Jake the butt of the joke, until he slowly ingratiates himself in their company. It’s all for the fun of the game, and soon enough the chemistry between these characters becomes infectious. However it’s not long before Jake sets his eyes on Beverly, an ambitious performing arts student played wonderfully by Zoey Deutch.
The scenes between Jake and Beverley go some way to alleviate the overbearing testosterone of batting practice and locker-room pranks, exuding warmth and giddy excitement as even the film struggles to contain their blooming infatuation once the screen divides in two. Their dialogue is reminiscent of the playful back-and-forth between characters Jesse and Céline in Before Sunrise, with writing that could just plainly state its themes if it weren’t so graceful and inherently human.
Not only is EWS!! elegantly directed, it also elegantly steers in the other direction of toxic masculinity when it comes to its rowdy protagonists. Some of them are dumb, some bright and thoughtful, and others somewhere in-between – but shy of revising history, it emphasises the good that comes from competitive masculinity and never disguises the fact these guys are young and utterly immature.
Linklater gives us their point of view as a means to identify, but that doesn’t stop him from turning the camera around from the ladies on the dance floor and revealing the pack of dolts we’ve been following. “You have to rise to meet them on their level” Finn mentions, after one character fluffs his lines towards a group of clearly uninterested girls. The film imagines a world of self-regulating masculinity, a place where chasing girls and horse around is all just a part of being 18.
As with the rest of his filmography, Linklater is right to avoid the trappings of an American Pie-style raunchy comedy (perhaps with an Unrated sticker slapped across its DVD cover like a warning). Or even a light teen comedy featuring a destined couple from two different worlds. Told from Beverly’s perspective, that’s perhaps what this film is. Yet Linklater is smarter than to concern himself with the unnecessary conflict of a third-act break-up. It’s a distinct balance between Linklater’s trademark ‘realistic’ approach of letting the camera roll a little longer, and the stylised look and feel of a non-stop party movie. As with Dazed, this setting and these situations are absolutely personal and familiar to the director, but also instantly recognisable to anyone who’s ever been to a party, or stayed out too late to function. It’s a perfect example of the old saying that the most relatable thing to an audience is often also the most personal, which is similarly true of Linklater’s Before trilogy, maybe one of the most realistic portrayals of romance and yet thoroughly personal.
Everybody Wants Some!! does what it does in such a graceful manner that it’s hard not to be seduced by its charms. While not quite reaching the highs of Dazed (few films like this do), it’s a leaner, more focused film, with endearing characters and a classic soundtrack that gives each scene its own groove. As the poster reads, they’re here for a good time, not a long time. For all our sakes, let’s hope Linklater has a few more parties left in him.
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