09 May, 2016

"Everybody Wants Some!!" Review (***½)

Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin and Ryan Guzman star in
"Everybody Wants Some!!"

Richard Linklater’s filmography is chock-full of some of the most influential and timeless films of the past 20 years. For me, his “Before” trilogy is his best work. The three films—for those who haven’t seen them (yet)—follow a couple’s relationship over the course of about 16 years. Each movie in the trilogy pretty much amounts to a series of conversations between the two leads as we check in on them at different points in their lives. The director’s focus on passing time and nostalgia is perfectly represented in these three films. Linklater seems to have a fascination with hindsight that allows his films to not only get better and better with age, but to sneak up on you and pack way more of a punch than you might have expected before the final credits start to roll.

"Everybody Wants Some!!" is the latest from the auteur director and has been dubbed a 'spiritual successor' to the 1993 classic "Dazed and Confused;" a crucial coming of age story and a hilarious look at familiar, relatable characters growing and learning (and not learning) together. You could also look at the movie as a follow up to the director’s previous massive achievement, "Boyhood," which concludes with the the main character going off to college. "Everybody Wants Some!!" follows a group of college baseball players during the three final days of summer leading up to the first day of class. Many of them are freshman—including our lead, Jake (Blake Jenner). The ensemble cast that surrounds Jenner is outstanding. Just like "Dazed and Confused" at the time, the cast consists of mostly unknowns, but probably not for long. The characters that anchor the film are all equally fantastic and are each given enough time to really stand out. There’s Wyatt Russell’s stoner truth-teller Willoughby, who just wants everybody to be themselves, Tyler Hoechlin’s mustachioed McReynolds who is far too competitive for his own good, and so many other genuinely memorable and unique characters. What Linklater lacks in plot-driven story he makes up for by allowing his characters to be real human beings.

"Everybody Wants Some!!" might look like a baseball movie but there’s actually very little of the sport in it at all. The film’s lack of focus on baseball mirrors that of the characters’. Are they baseball players? Yes. But what else are they? Between the keg stands, bong rips, baseball practices and disco dances, the characters occasionally start to ponder their place in the world. As much as the film is about the here and the now, the characters aren’t oblivious to the fact that life will move on and they will eventually have to become something other than college baseball players. Without ever getting too deep, characters acknowledge their mortality and are far more self-aware than the younger characters in "Dazed." Sure they’re still stupid kids who just want to have fun, but they know well enough to really soak it in and enjoy themselves because this might be as good as it gets for many of them. Just as Willoughby says, “We’re here for a good time. Not a long time."

The final scene is hilariously sharp and puts the rest of the film into perspective. Just like Linklater’s other films, “Everybody Wants Some!! fits perfectly into the familiar theme of 'the journey is the destination.' We see these characters dance at discos, crash parties, go to concerts, get drunk, practice baseball, argue, talk, sleep, eat, fight, and before we know it, we say goodbye to them—only to be left reminiscing on what came before—the good ole’ days.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

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