Review: EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!, Many Will Be Satisfied
Just as Van Halen is a culturally agreeable step down from Led Zeppelin, so too is their respective song “Everybody Wants Some!!” a step down from “Dazed and Confused”. So too then, perhaps appropriately, are the related pair of Richard Linklater comedies bearing their titles. It's fine to like and even appreciate both, but there's no denying that LZ is legend; VH is merely legacy.
That said, devotees of 1993's Dazed and Confused will find a lot to dig about Everybody Wants Some!!, a rightly meandering tale of college baseball players on the prowl for some girlie action. It may be crude, but it also bears a rare yet light honesty, even vulnerability; things so often missing at the cinema.
Fresh off of his Oscar near-miss with Boyhood last year (probably for the best, really), this is how Texas indie film icon Richard Linklater opts to cash in on his nomination prestige: A meandering, slightly buzzed college comedy set in 1980.
But, more power to him - Linklater has cited Everybody as a project he's really wanted to do for years; an autobiographical kind of "spiritual sequel" to Dazed. While none of the characters from that movie carry over, the everyman lead, Jake, played by Blake Jenner is essentially the college freshman version of Jason London's Pink - a high school baseball player now bringing his athletic skills, and young male appetite for debauchery, to his higher learning institution.
If you considered Dazed and Confused a bit of a loose ramble, hold onto your caps. With the lingering threat of cricket-bat man Ben Affleck and Pink's dilemma whether or not to sign the conduct agreement to play ball, that film at least had some sort of plot. This new film, even in being a half hour longer, flagrantly does not. Rules are given, rules are trounced. That's that, pass the beer.
Jake arrives on campus to a veritable “sea of ass”, a term I use because it's precisely the visual term the film employs. The camera passes one female rear end in short shorts after another. The day is sunny, there's not a bump in the road. The sequence is not so pervy as it is typical of the false evidence so many guys chose to believe as sexual promise. Thankfully, things never get ugly in this department, just clumsy. This is, after all, light comedy. Everybody Wants Some!! is nothing if not accurately titled.
Jake is a one-time high school big shot with the letterman jacket to prove it. He's a freshman ready to play ball for his new school, moving into a would-be Animal House where all his teammates live. And by live, I mean existing to party, screw, drink, screw, hang out, screw, and screw. In order to make this happen, they must be proactive. Women must be had, and if accomplishing this entails dance club code switching, (from last-gasp disco to country line dancing to punk moshing to a flamboyant theater party… whatever it takes, man!) so be it. In this sense, the roving pack of barely groomed athletes have even less sense of self than the emerging high school lollygaggers of Dazed. They're moving forward in reverse. But, it doesn't take long to know every one of them.
Linklater once again crafts a living world of straining machoism, of guys packed into muscle cars, of now-musty rock radio hits, and he makes it feel effortless. This is all the more impressive considering that recreating 1980 in 2016 has to be all the more difficult than recreating 1976 was back in 1993. But, with umpteen many more movies under his belt at this point, many of them heavier introspections about Big Things like life, relationships, and the way of the world, Linklater's earned the opportunity to loosen said belt for this consequence-free romp down memory lane.
Yet, Everybody Wants Some!! may not be that far removed from the experimental/observational bent that Linklater has demonstrated from the beginning (1991's Slacker, and later, the animated Waking Life). Like Dazed, Everybody's primary cinematic evocation is the forgotten low-end teen schlock of drive-in fillers like Crown International Pictures (distributors of horny teenager flicks such as 1977's The Van and 1978's Coach) than, say, American Graffiti.
At one point, Jake has a phone conversation with a girl he's been pursuing since his arrival. It plays out in split screen, and doesn't even try to match action from cut to cut. This from the guy who made a film about Orson Welles not so long ago. All stylistic looseness is happily intentional.
Linklater clearly seems to enjoy his forays into such dopey territory, but he's also infusing a certain humanity, vulnerability, and yes, production values to the material while also remaining true to the vibe of movies not so much intended to be watched as made-out to. The libido-driven horndogs of Crown International and whatnot did and said a lot of things that reek of both the characters and the films they're in grasping at coolness.
Linklater and company maintain that desperate quality, via half-baked comebacks, wonky hairstyles, and a collective beneath-the-surface frustration that fuels everything. But, they're intentional about it, and that makes all the difference. In Linklater's world of these films, no one, no matter how hard they try, is ever truly cool. Not all comers will love this movie, but it's doggone hard not to like. (And if you do, for crying out loud, stay through the credits. Yes, there's a bonus.)
Backing the film's commitment to libidinous boisterousness over all else is the film's title. Van Halen's "Everybody Wants Some!!" is one of the band's typically raucous early songs, a David Lee Roth-led shred-fest complete with cat calls. It originally appeared on the album “Women and Children First”, a valuing that neither the band nor this film embrace. And unlike the more enigmatic title song of Dazed and Confused, it is actually featured in the film.
During one of the many hangout sessions, a few of the more introspective ball players discuss Van Halen as a packaged commodity that is being sold to them. Of course this can also be read as a knowing internal commentary on the film itself, and is as close to meta as Everybody gets. That is, with the exception of one tossed-off Gilligan's Island reference. (Something for fans of the first movie.)
Although a proven humanist, Linklater isn't about to course-correct the bro/jock sexist nature of these guys in the interest of a more feminist-centric 2016 audience. Everybody Wants Some!! is a throwback in every sense, to a time when guys like this were freely idiots, and movies made about such guys were idiotic pale versions of this one. In the end, any dehumanized leering seems to be more aesthetic nostalgia, and ultimately settles at the longterm expense of the guys long after a drive-by glimpse of an unknown girl in short shorts has faded from memory.
The value of this film in ones life is an individual decision of variable milage. For some, Everybody will prove to be the throwback hangout they've always wanted. For others, it will be a two-hour meandering that yields even less than its “spiritual” fore-bearer. On a recent Film Comment podcast episode, veteran critic Amy Taubin replied to Rolling Stone's David Fear's gushing adoration of the film with the wry retort, “Ah, boys and their movies.” Which just about sums it up.