Movie Review: Richard Linklater’s latest, Everybody Wants Some!!

By Douglas Davidson

April 18, 2016

From the mind of Waking Life, the Sunrise trilogy, and Dazed and Confused comes writer/director Richard Linklater’s newest, Everybody Wants Some!!, out nationwide this Friday, April 22nd. Billed as the “spiritual sequel” to the 1993 classic Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! is a fun, comedic romp that delivers high dialogue with such little purpose that the movies ends up serving as a wonderful aperitif amid the buffet of capes, hijinks, and high drama currently in theaters.

Taking place over the course of the three days before college classes begin in August of 1980 in southeast Texas, Everybody Wants Some!! follows Jake (an engagingly warm Blake Jenner) as he meets his 11 live-in teammates and settles into college life. In a house of unsupervised, alpha-male college athletes, all he can do is take things as they come. At first glance this makes Everybody Wants Some!! seem like the typical college comedy flick that follows the typical “new boy comes to town, meets a girl, gets into trouble, and somehow manages to save the day before credits roll” formula but that’s not how writer/director Linklater operates. This is a straightforward story of the first three days our protagonist, Jake, spends on a college campus. Nothing more.

Left to right: Glen Powell plays Finnegan, Wyatt Russell plays Willoughby, Blake Jenner plays Jake, James Quinton Johnson plays Dale Douglas and Temple Baker plays Plummer in Everybody Wants Some by Paramount Pictures and Annapurna Pictures.
Left to right: Glen Powell as Finnegan, Wyatt Russell as Willoughby, Blake Jenner as Jake, James Quinton Johnson as Dale Douglas and Temple Baker as Plummer. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Annapurna Pictures.

For some, this will be a bit of a let-down, but I would argue that it’s a highly refreshing take on the college comedy genre. To have my expectations constantly subverted when I think I’ve figured out what the characters are going to do kept me continually engaged in a story that is, otherwise, without drive or purpose. That’s not to say that the film is boring or a waste of time; rather, Linklater plays to his strengths to create an authentic feeling of the uncertainty inherent in moving to someplace new, while capitalizing on the energy of the burgeoning eighties.

Sprinkled throughout are little Easter eggs from that period which serve to delight the audience. Sometimes they’re small things, like the production cards at the start of the film requiring a tracking adjustment harking back to VHS technology, or the music video over the end credits which you must stick around to see. Little things like this are worth a giggle, but where Linklater shines are the nuggets of ‘80s-ness he uses as set pieces to enhance the narrative. One of my two favorite pieces was the use of the familiar hazy filter that lives on ‘80s celluloid. It makes the film more authentic as you begin to feel as though he made the movie in the 1980s, not 2016. The other is his use of music. His soundtrack for Dazed and Confused is legendary for many and Linklater stepped it up here by making music something significant to Jake and his teammates as they went out to enjoy it each night. The music, whether it’s disco, honky-tonk country, punk, or classic rock, begins to represent the fluidity of main characters’ identities. As the audience spends more time with them across the three days, the way we view the characters begins to shift and change.

L-R: Jenner, Russell, Johnson, and Baker courtesy of Paramount Pictures

The film’s greatest success comes from the ensemble cast Linklater assembled. Though we don’t get to know each character deeply, each is given time to shine, even if the audience only gets a few moments to see past the machismo air they constantly put on. The standouts are Blake Jenner, Wyatt Russell as Willoughhby, Glen Powell as Finnegan, and J. Quinton Johnson as Dale. Each somehow manages to become endearing in a way that you wouldn’t expect. They are charming, intellectual, and simultaneously hyper-aware of this moment in time that they share on the team. Stay on the lookout for these four as they won’t disappoint.

This is by no means a perfect film. The vibe leans more to the 1970s than ‘80s and there is an aura about the time/place that makes some of the characterizations seem blatantly out of place. These discrepancies are mere nitpicks for a film that is generally enjoyable and leaves the audience with a happy, joyful feeling as we remember the days of low responsibility. As Linklater likes to remind us, growing up can be exceedingly difficult and unkind, but if you can embrace your inner strange, that’s when it gets fun.

In theaters nationwide on Friday, April 22, 2016

Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Soundtrack list:
“My Sharona” – The Knack
“Heart Of Glass” – Blondie
“Take Your Time (Do It Right)” – SOS Band
“Heartbreaker” – Pat Benatar
“Alternative Ulster” – Stiff Little Fingers
“Every 1’s A Winner” – Hot Chocolate
“Everybody Wants Some!!” – Van Halen
“Let’s Get Serious” – Jermaine Jackson
“Pop Muzik” – M
“Because The Night” – Patti Smith Group
“I Want You To Want Me (Live)” – Cheap Trick
“Hand In Hand” – Dire Straits
“Whip It” – Devo
“Romeo’s Tune” – Steve Forbert
“Good Times Roll” – The Cars
“Rapper’s Delight” – The Sugar Hill Gang

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