I am trying to come up with a more versatile director than Richard Linklater, but I am drawing a blank. Linklater might be best known for Boyhood, or for his Sunrise trilogy, featuring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. All four movies follow a handful of characters, visiting and re-visiting them at certain points their lives. Then there’s the Linklater who made a well-mannered con-man drama called Bernie, slightly overlooked, featuring a surprisingly smarmy Jack Black who is after Shirley McLaine’s wealth. Then School of Rock, a comedy again featuring Jack Black, and almost too formulaic for a Linklater movie. A Scanner Darkly, based on a Philip K. Dick short story, shot with a real-life cast and then re-designed afterwards to make it look animated. And finally there is the Linklater of such philosophical essays as Waking Life that seem to work best if you are drunk and stoned and sitting around a campfire on a summer night with friends or strangers or both and discuss really deep concepts like art, or life, or beer.
Now here is Everybody Wants Some!!, which seems to be a very loose sequel to Linklater’s debut Dazed and Confused from 1993, which is set in 1976. Everybody Wants Some!! takes place in 1980 and starts four days before that ominous Monday morning bell when college classes will begin in earnest. It is about a college baseball team, all young men, all full of themselves, all competing with each other, no matter if girls are around or not. It is two hours long, but doesn’t have a single boring minute. I was highly entertained.
It is not too easy to describe the mood of the movie. On the surface, the usual US college stuff happens. Freshmen move in, their future teammates seize them up, show them the houses they are living in, introduce them (and us) to the whole team. Idle banter, self-aggrandizement, pranks – everyone has his tick, whether it is the knack for words with more than three syllables in order to sound sort of British or endless phone calls to friends or girlfriends back home.
I’ve never been a jock and consider myself a kind of introvert, but I think it would be great fun to spend an evening with that bunch. Some of them have plans, but are unsure if they are sound, or realistic. Others seem to be on the verge of realizing that they might be gay. This sounds somewhat heavy-handed, but Everybody Wants Some!! is anything but. They go to nightclubs, they have pitchers of beer, they play pranks on each other, they practice curveballs in the nude, alone in their room. They change clothes between one nightclub and the next. They are told not to smoke weed and not to drink beer in the house, and girls are to stay on the ground floor, their coach tells them. He is not yet out the door when the gang manage to break all of those rules.
It’s a male-centered movie. In most other movies, jocks are depicted as bone-headed bullies. Here, they are happy, cocky, sad, hung over, awkward, slightly too cool, slightly too drunk, trying too hard or not enough – and at one point, they play baseball, trying to fit all their temperaments into one team. They are young guys first, and jocks a close second. Young women circle the gang, but stand their own ground. There are flirts and weird pick-up lines, for instance when Finn talks to girls about his average-sized penis because if you don’t boast about it, they think you are a decent guy, and find your modesty interesting. Sometimes that line works.
There are no big names anywhere in the movie, but the casting is really well done. There are no revelations, no tragedies, no accidents, no melancholia. No-one makes a mix-tape for that special girl – they’d rather steal from one another’s record collection, then put the record back eventually. Which is not to say that there isn’t that special girl, but she is not idealized or ridiculed, and does not have any nude scenes. The movie just points its camera at all those people and observes them. There is humour, and there are two or three characters who just stop short of being caricatures, but the movie knows where the boundaries lie, and doesn’t set a foot wrong.
There are a lot of dreams in that movie – dreams that the characters have, or aspire to, but there are allusions to Alice in Wonderland and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And it’s hard to not think of a dream when Jake and Beverly, who like each other, are floating on two tyres on a pond at sunrise, and of course there is something of Before Sunrise in the air. I know I’ve described Linklater’s work as eclectic, but a lot of scenes in most of his movies are about growing up and having or not having plans. Everybody Wants Some!! lets you share their hopes and dreams and their growing pains. Everybody has them.