Beneath the exuberant playfulness and full-on machismo, Everybody Wants Some!! gets surprisingly deeper than it needs to get. But that’s par for the course for most of Richard Linklater’s films. What sets Everybody Wants Some!! apart from the rest of the pack is its lackadaisical approach. The relaxed nature of the film keeps it from getting overbearing or prophetic, focusing on what the movie does best, which is being completely outrageous and hilariously fun.
Marketed as a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! follows a group of college baseball players as they manage to find who they are and navigate college in the 1980s. The loose narrative structure is a character in many of Linklater’s film, and he allows the plot to breathe and gives plenty of room for character development. Freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) is our audience surrogate, as he arrives to the frat house and attempts to fit in among his teammates and also discover who he is and who he wants to be.
Linklater does this through a series of brilliant encounters and sequences in disco halls and party houses that rival Animal House, but the best scenes come from the group of guys simply hanging out. A looming “x number of days before class” reminds us that their time is limited, and they certainly make the most of it. The film explores identity, specifically group identity as the men often put on fronts and suppress themselves in order to fit in and “make the team.” It also beautifully explores the male psyche and bloodlust for competition, whether its a simple ping-pong game or courting women.
The performances are all-around excellent, and Linklater’s team of mostly-unknowns bring complexity and loads of laughs to the group. When Jake arrives, we are introduced to each of the gang individually, all with their own quirks and personal philosophies. The film feels “lived-in,” like we just stumbled upon this dirty frat house and are introduced to its zany denizens. The dialogue and chemistry among the group is dynamic and real, full of quips and smart-assery, but also admiration. Characters like Finnegan (Glen Powell, a standout) often waxes poetic as he tries to score, yet he comes across as no less delusional as his fellow teammates. Other interactions with his teammates allow Jake to play the straight-man, but his straight-man feels welcomed and ingrained in the culture of the group. His reluctance to participate in some of the rituals but also his enthusiasm for belongingness forces Jake to look outside of the team for fulfillment. As he chases after Beverly (Zoey Deutsch), we’re rooting for him to learn from his mistakes and get the girl, but also grow responsible for his education while still bonding with the team. It’s brilliant characterization.
If this is indeed another masterpiece from Richard Linklater, it definitely ranks among his best. It certainly earns its place, with witty writing and a script full of scenes packed with laughs and complexity. Scene-stealing performers all get their chance to shine, never feeling like caricatures or stand-ins, but as fully-developed, real individuals. The film’s low-key approach feels like you’re hanging out with your buddies, as you guys figure out life as square pegs who struggle to fit into round holes.