Anticipation was high among fans of filmmaker Richard Linklater when it was announced that his follow-up to Boyhood (2014) would be Everybody Wants Some!! (2016) and it was being touted as a spiritual sequel of sorts to his beloved cult film Dazed and Confused (1993). While the latter took place on the last day of high school in 1976, the former takes place at the beginning of the college year in 1980. The film enjoyed positive critical notices but its limited theatrical release ensured a similar commercial trajectory to that of Dazed.
College freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) arrives in town with The Knack’s “My Sharona” blasting on his car stereo and his record collection in the backseat. He’s a pitcher who will be living in the same house as his baseball teammates. McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) and Roper (Ryan Guzman) are the first two he meets with the former informing Jake that he hates pitchers. Jake heads upstairs and encounters friendlier faces – Finnegan (Glen Powell) and Willoughby (Wyatt Russell) – who are providing a running commentary on McReynolds and Roper’s attempt to replenish a waterbed with the latter telling Jake to read his copy of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (“Chapter 9 – blow your mind,” he tells him).
Linklater’s easygoing style of direction does an excellent job of taking us through the house, introducing Jake’s various teammates and giving them each a moment to make a memorable impression. It doesn’t take long for Jake and some of his teammates to go cruising for girls in a car where, en route, they proceed to sing along to “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang in a show-stopping scene. The rest of Everybody Wants Some!! chronicles the misadventures of these guys as they spend the next three days before the start of college hitting on and/or talking about girls, insulting each other and getting drunk – in other words, acting like young, horny guys.
The cast of relative unknown actors is uniformly excellent as they effortlessly become their respective characters. Linklater has always had a knack for getting exceptional performances out of young actors, starting with Slacker (1991) and continuing with this film. Among the standouts are Blake Jenner as the film’s nominal, good-natured protagonist, Glenn Powell as the smooth-talking Finn, and Wyatt Russell as the perpetually stoned pitcher cum philosopher Willoughby.
Like with many of his films, Linklater finds drama inherent in minor events, like the team getting kicked out of a nightclub when one of their own (the hilariously arrogant pitcher Jay Niles played to perfection by Juston Street) flips out, as it bond the new guys with the veterans. They stick up for one of their own even when they do something they don’t like.
Just past the halfway point we finally see these guys play some baseball in a scrimmage session and it becomes apparent how everything that has already occurred has been leading up to this point. Linklater has orchestrated this in his typically understated way. By the time Jake and his teammates go to a party hosted by performing arts students, one of whom (Zoey Deutch) he’s attracted to, we have become invested in these guys as Linklater takes them out of their comfort zone of baseball into a new experience, which continues their bonding experience as a team both on and off the field. For the first third of Everybody Wants Some!! I was wondering why I should care about these jocks (never having been one myself) but he pulls it off by deftly humanizing them in a wonderfully unassuming way.
Linklater understands the mentality of young athletes and how they are constantly in competition with each other, whether it is playing Ping-Pong or picking up girls, and some guys are gracious in defeat while others act like assholes because they hate to lose. The film provides insight into how these guys act and think, which doesn’t make it as accessible as Dazed and Confused, which limited its commercial appeal, but it is as just a personal statement. Dazed also had more significant female characters, which broadened its appeal. Not so much with Everybody, which has a predominantly male cast but they all aren’t macho Alpha Males with characters like Jake and Finn coming across as more relatable. Linklater manages to humanize most of the jocks in this film and, at the very least, show why they act the way they do.
Like he did with the young Mitch in Dazed and Confused, Linklater uses freshman Jake as a gateway into the world of Everybody Wants Some!!, which allows us to get the lay of the land – who everyone is and where they rank on the team’s social hierarchy. And like that earlier film, this one is hangout movie with Linklater acting as a cultural anthropologist, observing the behavior and practices of a specific subculture – Texas college baseball players. He has drawn on his own personal experiences, much as he did with Dazed, with an authenticity and attention to period detail of someone who lived it.