If there’s one thing about Richard Linklater, it’s that he’s true to his Austin, Texas roots — he’s a keep-Austin-weird independent. He served notice with Slacker back in 1991, and while that movie looked to be a one-hit Sundance wonder, Linklater came back with the uproarious Dazed and Confused, which gave the world Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck, and Before Sunrise, the latter spawning two more chapters with the same actors. More recently, he delivered the wildly acclaimed dissertation on growing up, Boyhood, which was filmed over the course of 12 years.
And that brings us to what’s tagged as a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some. While that connection may seem a stretch given the fact that Linklater’s latest centers on a collegiate frat house of baseball players at a fictitious Texas university in the 1980s, in temperament and scope and a healthy dose of humorous, cutting snark, Everybodyis right in the strike zone.
Like Dazed and Confused, the underrated Go, and American Graffiti, Everybody Wants Some takes place over what amounts to little more than a day, in this case the first day of school for frosh fastballer, Jake (Blake Jenner from Glee). Upon arriving at college, Jake encounters a rich potpourri of personality: the buff stud slugger (Tyler Hoechlin), the philosophical stoner (Wyatt Russell), the arrogant and delusional braggadocio (Jason Street), and the resident pickup artist (a charmingly smarmy Glen Powell). Chest beating, bar hopping, and sexual pursuits ensue, with the discernible endpoint being the team’s first practice Sunday afternoon, if the players can even get out of bed thanks to the inevitable hangover they’re packing on.
Given this is a movie about baseball, there’s little physical diamond play. Instead we get the boys trying to steal third and home with young and willing coeds. This is also a Richard Linklater film, so sex is about as overt as the casual, circuitous banter that titillates the viewer with slow, sleepy strokes of revelation and social insight. Jake roams with the guys from disco bar to urban cowboy rodeo, with some near naked Twister and mud wrestling in between, harbors a simmering romantic yen for Beverly (Zoe Deutch, Lea Thompson’s daughter), a drama student with shutdown skills. Their courtship is amiable, long developing, and veers into Before series territory with an obligatory all-night talkie, but alas they’re no Jesse and Celine.
The good casting also works in the film’s favor. Everyone on the well-balanced roster plays their part. Jenner may be the lead, but his affable, good-looking up-and-comer serves as a post around which the chorus of Adonis upperclassmen strut their stuff. Powell is a sensitive yet determined lady killer, Finnegan and Russell are the merry court jesters of the diamond, and Street’s angry hurler is a great foil and lightening rod, but we never get under the hood of what drives his mercurial mania.
Given its spiritual sequel tag, Everybody Wants Some is no Dazed and Confused for that matter either. Everybody is a funny, telling sojourn through the corridors of education, but it’s missing the earlier film’s sense of genuine, in-the-scene insight. One can’t help but wonder if the burden of baseball, both as a plot and thematic element, becomes too unwieldy for Linklater. However, this larger observation only applies in retrospect, because the movie’s time-capsule elements — with nods to Blondie, feathered hair, and Burt Reynolds mustaches — that power the director’s nostalgic rewind with a cheesy sardonic accent much in the same way Paul Thomas Anderson did with Boogie Nights. Linklater doesn’t quite hit it out of the park with Everybody Wants Some, but he certainly scores.