Hot Take: Richard Linklater is one of the best at making characters you are genuinely interested in even when almost nothing happens. (Even though so much happens.) Best movie of 2016 so far!
(5 / 5)
Everybody Wants Some!! takes us through the weekend before school starts for a college baseball team in 1980. Our central character Jake (Blake Jenner) is a freshman pitcher joining a successful southern Texas college baseball team. Second team all-state on his high school team, Jake is now just one of the many good players on this team. He arrives at school and quickly learns the environment will be competitive and filled with parties and trying to meet girls. But, as with it’s spiritual predecessor Dazed and Confused, it’s more than that as Jake and the group are establishing their identity for the rest of the year and maybe longer.
Linklater has stated this film is somewhat autobiographical. Dazed and Confused represented his high school years and Everybody Wants Some!! his college years. The film feels more grown up than Dazed as the characters are now away from home, some, like Jake, for the first time. The audience is immediately initiated into the gang along with Jake. You realize rather quickly Everybody Wants Some!! is a hang out movie. You might even want to hang with a few of them, if you can actually keep up.
This is Animal House meets Porky’s meets Bull Durham with writing as sharp as Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Boyhood (something Dazed and Confused was occasionally arguably missing). This film is about finding your identity while trying to fit in and living with passion. Not only is it the best movie of the year so far, it is the funniest as the film takes you from one comical vignette to the next as Linklater weaves this tapestry of characters (emphasis on characters) together.
Much like Dazed and Confused, there would be no surprise that we will look back at this film in 10 years and see a litany of performances from the next wave of Hollywood. (Often Dazed and Confused is mentioned as the movie that introduced us to Matthew McConaughey but it also had memorable performances from Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Joey Lauren Adams, Jeremy London, Adam Goldberg, Cole Hauser and Parker Posey and I might have left someone out.) Not just one but all of the performances stand out — Jenner as new freshman pitcher Jake, Tyler Hoechlin as the team’s best hitter and pitcher hater McReynolds (complete with an awesome mustache Keith Hernández would be proud of), Glen Powell as charming bullshit artist Finn, Wyatt Russell as resident deep thinker and pothead Willoughby, Ryan Guzman as the team’s alpha male Roper, Juston Street as another freshman pitcher Niles who apparently throws a 95 mph fastball and also happens to be completely insane, J. Quinton Johnson as the team’s only black player Dale, Forrest Vickery as the superstitious Coma, Will Brittain as the girlfriend-whipped Billy Autrey who can’t get the team to call him by his name, Austin Amelio as the goofy lefty pitcher Nesbit and Tanner Kalina as Brumley and Temple Baker as Plummer, two of the other freshman players trying to fit in.
Every character mentioned above has at least one moment in the film. If there’s a knock, there is the fact that women aren’t much more than scenery. The only strong female character is Beverly (Zoey Deutch). Our central character is smitten with Beverly and throughout the film’s debauchery looks for an opportunity to meet her on the weekend before classes begin. It’s hard to knock the film for it’s lack of strong female roles as the film feels so effortless and organic that the story doesn’t feel exclusionary.
Without a doubt, Everybody Wants Some!! is a special film as many of Linklater’s films are. The nostalgic feel of the passing of the torch from the wild 70s into the 80s where there’s a sense of needing an identity is done so flawlessly through impeccable, witty writing. It’s even one of the best baseball movies to be made and there might be 5 minutes of baseball in the entire movie. If you don’t find yourself interested in these characters in the first 15 minutes, you might want to walk out and get your money back or turn the channel (if you’re watching at home) but otherwise, you’ll be down for riding along with this band of truly unique characters on their first few days before college.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Smartly Dumb
This is Animal House and Porky’s with an IQ. That’s not to say neither of those films don’t have moments of wit and wisdom but to say this one does. There’s raunchy debauchery but it’s moderately weaved around a smarter tale of seeking out identity and establishing who you are in a strange new world. It captures that initial college experience and how consequential those first few days are. The antics of these young adults on their own for the first time are ridiculously stupid at times but it’s the overall package where the genius lies.
- Characters Who Are Real Characters and Really Characters
The actors and actresses effortlessly deliver their performances. The casting is perfect and it’s hard to find a mistake in the decision to cast who was cast. Maybe it comes from a relatively unknown resume for a large majority of the cast but newcomers don’t always fit and in this case they do, like a glove.
- Stay for the Post-Credits
If you love these characters as much as I did, you’ll want to stick around for the post-credits scene. Trust me.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Lack of a Strong Female Presence
For the most part, women are marginalized in this film. That isn’t really Linklater’s modus operandi so this was just the story being told but it’s still noticeable. The one notable female presence is Zooey Deutch who does hold her own and stand out during her limited screen time.