There’s a moment in Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some where four collegiate athletes hover around an overstuffed bong, listening to the psychedelic crackle of Led Zeppelin, competing to see who can take the biggest bong rip. It’s an indisputably Linklater moment, one that speaks to the essence of the Austin filmmaker’s disco baseball comedy that forces one to meditate on what friendship and camaraderie meant before the advent of cell phones. There is an enviable sense of authentic connection found in this communal stoned passage, one that finds itself increasingly diluted by distraction in modern day conversation, that’s undercut by an overarching spirit of competition. Community and competition – two forces that rally to make Linklater’s latest film a low key, nostalgiacore home run.
Ever since Slacker, Richard Linklater has made slice of life dramas that percolate with a sense of great specificity and Everybody Wants Some is no exception. It’s firmly planted in a time and place – East Texas, 1980 – and each and every microcosm of detail contributes to its overarching transportive feeling. Linklater is a sponge for detail, the cast claimed during the Q&A, so much so that he took on the enduring moniker of Rickopedia, and his fierce command of tone is in large part due to his ability to harness the aura – the sights, the smells, the sounds, the styles – of a bygone era.
The baseball team at the center of the film, a motley crew of good time testosterone, occasionally feel like relics too, particularly in their overt carnal conquest (from which the name at least partially takes its title) and dated male gaze interpretation of sexuality. But Linklater is more a fly on the wall than a social commentator this time round, presenting a time capsule that still feels relevant today even if it’s sexual politics are definitively dated.
Jake (Blake Jenner) is the closest thing Everybody Wants Some has to a main character, an unassuming, quiet type in the context of brassy boozed up compatriots, but the film is built much more around the ensemble. This is a movie that strikes at the heart of what it means to be a team, to put the collective before the individual. Linklater recruits a cast of mostly first-time Texas natives to flesh out the ranks of his fictional baseball team and had the ensemble do daily disco lessons, batting and fielding practice and mandatory pool parties in order to build a sense of camaraderie. To foster the bonds of faux brotherhood.
The result is a collection of young men who work off one another with earnest enthusiasm, some of whom inevitably result in being more memorable than others. Wyatt Russell, Austin Amelio, Temple Baker and J. Quinton Johnson, the stoner, lady’s man, numbskull and silvertongue respectively, all manage to stand out from the pack of tow-headed All Americans.
Rick’s script has a loose, improvisational feel to it, making room for the natural fluidity that so often defines Linklater’s films. A bounty of comic beats and perpetual bro tournaments build the low-key castle stone by stone, making for an old-school style of college movie that is all too rarely made anymore. There’s moments of bombast and hard partying hijinks but Linklater squares his narrative around the idea of brotherhood and how bonds are formed, using these moments to inform that sense of camaraderie and character development rather than the other way around.
In his pitch for the film, Linklater called Everybody Wants Some a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused and a natural next step from Boyhood and both comparisons are apt. Stylistically, the film is structured from similar studs – a series of understated tableaus that ebb and flow somewhat nonchalantly but pointedly so. There’s never quite the immaculate level of soul-searching present in the Before series on display here but that would be disingenuous to the spirit of Everybody Wants Some, a film more interested in defining the slop-rock, ironic swagger of entitled athletes with a silly, though strangely earnest grin.
CONCLUSION: In the pantheon of Richard Linklater’s accomplished filmography, Everybody Wants Some is a relative softball, but even his minor work is essential viewing. A laid-back daydream of primetime golden years that speaks to Linklater’s immutable ability to craft immensely watchable party movies that sparkle with character.