Richard Linklater goes back to school with Everybody Wants Some!!, a raucous party that is equal parts sentimental and subtly poignant.
Just two years after sending that kid off to college in Boyhood, Richard Linklater is back on campus for Everybody Wants Some!!, a film he describes as the spiritual sequel to his popular cult film Dazed and Confused from 1993. The latter film made movie stars out of Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck and its scruffy young ensemble, so can lightning strike twice for the popular indie director?
With Everybody Wants Some!!, Linklater transports audiences back to the 1980's, a decade populated with tight t-shirts and even tighter washed-out jeans. Baby-faced baseball pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner) arrives on campus just a few days before semester is scheduled to begin and, along with guys like Finnegan (Glen Powell), McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) and Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), Jake spends his first weekend of college sampling everything that the lifestyle has to offer; girls, parties, weed, girls, bar games, music and, of course, girls.
At first the film feels a little directionless; the guys just bounce from one party to another, getting jiggy on the disco dancefloor in the hope of scoring with all the attractive college girls. Separated from parents and responsibility for the first time, Jake throws himself into the weekend with both feet - and so do the audience. It's easy to get swept up in Linklater's excitable direction and the buzzing soundtrack that samples everything from Pat Benatar to Van Halen. The guys are fun to spend time with and are all assigned an element of individuality; through all the partying and sex, Linklater finds space to craft a captivating group dynamic that takes time to shine a light on each character.
That being said, there are a couple of notable scene-stealers. Powell's Finnegan is a riot as the alpha male of the group whilst stoner Willoughby brings a lot of the laughs. Jenner is an eager lead but is often outshone by his wingmen, the smooth Dale (J. Quinton Johnson) and dimwitted Plummer (Temple Baker).
The film finds a new gear once Jake sets his sights on wooing Beverly (Zoey Deutch). Deutch plays the outgoing drama student with adorable wide-eyed eagerness and charm, which kinda redeems the film from its earlier exploits with fairly throwaway female characters. She isn't used as an object, unlike almost everyone else without a penis in the movie. This is something that might turn some viewers off, and I totally get it - it's a fairly cliched way of emphasizing the significance of how Beverly is 'the one' that Jake falls for.
Linklater does an amazing job of recreating the aesthetic of the 1980's; the first scene sees Jake cruising along the street in his car listening to My Sharona with his vinyl record collection later proving to be the single most valuable addition to the share house. Twilight Zone VHS tapes, Space Invaders,
The breezy narrative doesn't pack the usual punches that you would expect; in fact, the whole film cruises along at same lackadaisical speed as a freshman that hasn't yet had life smack them in the face. The hard-hitting epiphany never comes; the gravitas skirts underneath the surface for those looking for it, but there are no tears or massive character shifts.
The film farewells the group by teasing the greater challenges to come; they've had their fun, but only those who've been there and done this will know that it seldom lasts long. It might sound silly, but I really liked this approach; pressed into a single weekend, you shouldn't expect huge drama or breakups. These are kids basking in the warmth of early adulthood and buzzing with the associated freedom that it comes with. It's nostalgic as fuck, but Everybody Wants Some!! is done with such eagerness and craftmanship that you can't help but sit back and bask in the warmth also. Remember, you're there for a good time - not a long time.
The Verdict: 9/10
Everybody Wants Some!! isn't the first of its kind but it is up there with the best; Linklater's eager examination of what it means to be young, athletic, macho and swirling with hormones is loose, directionless and brimming with energy all at the same time. The fresh-faced cast, colourful visual design and sublime soundtrack work in tandem to create a rose-tinted window to a time where the future was wide-open and oozing with possibility. The whiplash back to reality as the credits role only further prove how captivating and compelling Linklater's freewheeling film can be.
Everybody Wants Some!! is in cinemas across Australia now