A friend of mine saw Richard Linklater’s nostalgia infused Everybody Wants Some!! He described it as “just two hours of dudes hanging out.”
This is probably one of the best micro reviews of a film I’ve seen. It perfectly summarizes Everybody Wants Some!!, it tells you what you need to know about the film, and it’s a good indicator of whether or not you like it.
And, like all of Linklater’s films, it’s a very simple statement that has great implications. Linklater’s best work, like Slacker, Dazed and Confused, SubUrbia, and even Boyhood can all be summarized easily and in a way that does not sound engaging. But Linklater’s strength is that he is able to use that simple idea to capture something about life.
And Linklater understands what nostalgia means. It’s about remembering the excitement of something that used to seem new and fresh. It’s not about remembering what was popular. It’s about recalling how those items played into your life.
Everybody Wants Some!!, billed as a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, showcases each of Linklater’s strengths. The story of a freshman pitcher going to college and meeting his teammates for the first time can be told any number of ways. And yet all we see Jake (Blake Jenner) use the time to go to parties, smoke pot, try to pick up girls, and get into bizarre competitions with his new teammates.
But it’s so addicting to watch. I left the theater with a complete sense of who these people were and what was driving. I didn’t like all of them, but I felt like I understood what was causing them so much pressure and hoped that their lives would improve. Everybody Wants Some!! really did fell like coming across an old photograph of a group of friends.
The film is billed a sort of sequel to Dazed and Confused for several reasons. First, because it’s taking place at around the same time (1980 as opposed to 1976) and because it takes place at the start of next stage in life (the start of college as opposed to the last year of high school). But it also captures those same feelings of nostalgia that Dazed and Confused did. The point isn’t to remind the audience of something that existed. It’s to remind people of something they’ve all been through.
I’ll give you an example. One scene has Jake observing the stacks of videotapes with Willouhby’s (Wyatt Russell) recorded Twilight Zone episodes. They have a discussion about “Eye of the Beholder” before smoking marijuana with the rest of the team and listen to a record while having a conversation that leads to the line “I’m too philosophical for this shit!”
While other nostalgia pieces would focus on the existence of video tapes and the need to record in the days before Netflix, Linklater focuses on the conversation. The Twilight Zone was a unifier for two people who did not know each other. The conversation they had is what’s important. I know I have had conversations over popular cartoons from the ’90s that proved a bonding experience. Linklater realizes this in each of his works, letting the culture fade into the background and the people take the lead.
More than that, Everybody Wants Some!! paints a great picture of the characters as they go to parties where they drink, dress like characters from Alice in Wonderland to play the Dating Game, get kicked out of discos over limes placed in screwdrivers, and mock each other for perceived sleights while trying to build a camaraderie with each other. It’s impossible to describe everything that happens, because it doesn’t seem to flow in any logical way. But neither did Boyhood. It’s better at capturing the randomness of life.
There is one strange element in Everybody – or rather, one element that I felt was missing. Dazed and Confused was an ensemble cast that truly took advantage of all the characters. This film really only focuses on Jake, while teasing us with an ensemble. Beverly (Zoey Deutch, who looks exactly like her mother), the drama student Jake tries to woo, is the most well-defined female character in the film. But her existence and meaning still seems to be defined by Jake’s infatuation with her. The female characters are really placed at a disadvantage in this film.
I understand that this film is meant to be about the male college experience, which would of course feature lustful conversations. But Dazed and Confused was equally fascinated with the entire experience, while Everybody seems limited. The female characters in Dazed were not necessarily deep or were even good role models, but they were honest. I missed that perspective in Everybody!!
But I cannot complain about something the film doesn’t do but should look instead at what it does do. And as an examination of the first days of college, Everybody Wants Some!! still feels emotionally real.
Richard Linklater knows what nostalgia means to people. It’s not about a specific song or a favorite game. It’s about the people you knew at that moment that have changed. This is something things like Buzzfeed don’t get. Everybody Wants Some!! is not a film about 1980 or college. It’s about remembering the people you hung out with and knowing that moment cannot be recaptured. Watching this film really is like going back to your first day of college.