Film Review: Everybody Wants Some (★★★★)

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everybody_wants_some_ver2I want to hang out with Richard Linklater. If the filmmaker’s life is anything like the semi-autobiographical hang out movies Dazed and Confused and now the spiritual sequel Everybody Wants Some, he leads a charmed existence. More importantly though, Linklater has found a way to extract the essence of his experiences and give us some highly memorable cinema. In the same way that Dazed and Confused was an instant cult classic and iconic look at high school in the 1970’s, Everybody Wants Some does the same for college in the 1980’s. With a top notch cast of up and comers, Linklater dives into the experiences one has while getting on to a campus for the first time, with the various experiences that come with it. It’s ostensibly an alcohol, marijuana, and sex filled comedy, but there’s plenty else besides that on display. Even more so here than in Dazed and Confused, Linklater has a lot on his mind, despite the loose structure and vibe of a simple hang out movie. Friendship, the first moments where adults are no longer supervising your actions, the fleeting initial steps we take into adulthood, and the bonds we build out of nothing are all tackled in Everybody Wants Some. It all mixes together perfectly, making for one of 2016’s most enjoyable and frankly best films so far. Quite frankly, I fell in love with it from the first scene on. I’ll even call it now, Everybody Wants Some is an instant college classic.

The movie takes place over the weekend before classes start during a new semester at a small Texas college, centering on the members of the baseball team. Our protagonist and entry point is freshman pitcher Jake Bradford (Blake Jenner), who drives up to the baseball house off campus with a ton of excitement but no clue what expect. That serves him well, as he meets the eclectic group of teammates he’ll be bonding with, including the pitcher hating senior star hitter Glenn McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), stoner pitcher Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), country boy fellow freshman and roommate Bill Autry (Will Brittain), voice of reason Dale Douglas (J. Quinton Johnson), and the smooth talking leader of sorts Finnegan (Glen Powell). Those various personalities clash, compete, and bond while drinking, partying, carousing with co-eds, and of course playing baseball as well. Each has more to them than meets the eye, to one degree or another, something that theater major Beverly (Zoey Deutch) learns as she is pursued by Jake. Through it all, we watch them all take the awkward first steps into becoming adults that we’ve been through and instantly recognize. The feeling of being unsupervised and free from authority is palpable and lovingly depicted.

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This is one of the best uses of a mostly unknown cast that I can remember in some time. Each and every single member of the ensemble disappears into these characters, making them all seem like real people you might meet on a college campus. If there’s a standout, it’s Glen Powell, who is a fast talking bundle of charisma, someone who seems like a star in the making. His musings and uninvited advice to Jake are some of the many highlights in this film. Blake Jenner is a believable blank slate initially as our audience surrogate, though the flashes of intelligence and personality that begin to seep through are handled expertly. Jenner especially shines when interacting with Zoey Deutch, the only female character with any notable screen time. She’s as fully realized as the guys though, showing how different types of teenagers can bond when moving from high school to college. Powell is best in show, but Deutch isn’t far behind, followed by Jenner. The aforementioned J. Quinton Johnson and Wyatt Russell are pleasures to watch as well, with Will Brittain and Tyler Hoechlin breathing life into what could otherwise have been one dimensional characters. Other members of the ensemble include Austin Amelio, Temple Baker, Ryan Guzman, Tanner Kalina, Juston Street, and Forrest Vickery. It’s a group effort and everyone pulls their weight.

No writer/director is better than Richard Linklater at dropping you into a world with fully realized characters that you just want to spend time with. Everybody Wants Some has something to say about every single one of its characters, and Linklater’s effortlessly brilliant script deserves a ton of credit for that. He’s putting forward a retrospective on the past and living in the moment that doesn’t shortchange introspection and poignancy. There may be tons of talk about sex, but it’s also not lost on these young men that they’re entering a new phase of their lives. Some are more overt in discussing it than others, but they all are given agency and feel like real people. In a just world, Linklater is a Best Original Screenplay nominee for this one at the next Academy Awards ceremony. His direction is reliably strong too, aided by the cinematography of Shane F. Kelly and the editing of Sandra Adair, both of whom did top notch work previously for him on Boyhood. Frankly, this is as much a follow up to that one as anything else, as we left that flick at the start of college and pick up here at the same time. It’s a testament to Linklater’s talents that he can discuss these themes so constantly but do them in so many different ways that still feel joined at the hip. I tip my cap to him.

Especially if you’re a fan of Dazed and Confused, I really believe that Everybody Wants Some is going to be distilled cinematic pleasure. Perhaps it’ll be too cool for school as an Oscar contender, but for now, I’m just thrilled that the month of March got such a brilliant film. This is perhaps my favorite movie of the year to date, and I can almost promise you that it’ll crack my top ten list for 2016 when all is said and done. Yes, it’s that good. I can’t recommend Everybody Wants Some enough to you all. Simply put, it’s a must see.

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!