Everybody Wants Some!! is what Linklater is calling a “spiritual sequel” to what is perhaps his most beloved film, 1993’s Dazed & Confused.
Sometimes non-film critics wonder (aloud or otherwise) how much a critic’s mood the day they saw a movie will affect the review that they eventually write. This is a valuable question, and the best way I can answer it is that good critics are able to semi-objectively evaluate a film regardless their mood the day of. But then there’s this: When I went to the press screening of the new Richard Linklater film Everybody Wants Some!! I was in a really foul mood, and in no mental state to be enjoying much of anything. Two hours later when the movie was over, I was in a very good mood; almost floating. Behold, the power of movies.
Or maybe I should say: Behold, the power of Richard Linklater. He’s been considered a major American director since 1991’s Slacker, but I’d rank recent Linklater perhaps his most fruitful period—his last two films before EWS are perhaps his so far most critically acclaimed: 2014’s Boyhood and 2013’s Before Midnight. Meanwhile, Everybody Wants Some!! is what Linklater is calling a “spiritual sequel” (a much more elegant term than what you get from modern Hollywood vernacular) to what is perhaps his most beloved film, 1993’s Dazed & Confused.
Not that the two films have anything directly sequel-ish in common. No continued stories, no reoccurring characters between the two films, nothing like that. Dazed & Confused took place on the last day of high school in 1976, and Everybody Wants Some!! takes place in the hours leading up to the first day of college in 1980. You’ll find some mirrors here and there—for example, the location the Emporium in D&C bears a lot of similarities to the location the Sound Machine in EWS, and of course both films are named after rock songs of the era—but the extent to which EWS is a sequel to Dazed comes down almost entirely to Linklater himself. Both films are semi-autobiographical, and you can see it in how lived-in the situations and characters are. (Makes one wonder if Richard Linklater is the only American film director to have endured a fairly typical coming of age.) To restate, it’s a sequel in autobiographical terms, but not when it comes to characters or directly continued plotlines or anything like that; Linklater himself is the only true reoccurring thread.
Everybody Wants Some!! features a large ensemble cast of fresh faces, but the closest thing we have to a lead is Jake (Blake Jenner), a freshman pitcher coming to play for Southeast Texas State University. As the movie begins he’s arriving at the house he’s to live in with a handful of other baseball players, with another, similar house full of players right next door. Here writing a review of the film becomes difficult, because all of the members on the team with Jake are well-drawn and interesting, and so it feels cheap to focus on some but not others, but it would make this review too long to try to name all of them. So, suffice it to say, some of my favorites include the pot-smoking, Carl Sagan-obsessed pitcher Willoughby (Wyatt Russell, who is Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn’s son), the charming talker Finn (Glen Powell), and the sweet but dopey freshman Brumley (Tanner Kalina). A sure-to-be fan favorite is Jay Niles, aka “Raw Dog” (Juston Street), a weird-looking pitcher with a hot temper who insists he’s a major pro prospect.
It’s worth mentioning at this juncture that, where Dazed & Confused had a nice mix of male and female characters (that film’s Sabrina had approximately as substantial an arc as did Pink or Mitch), Everybody Wants Some!! does not. Here there’s really only one female character worth mention, Beverly (Zoey Deutch, who calls to mind a cross between Anna Kendrick and Ellen Page, and is in real life the daughter of Lea Thompson and Pretty in Pink director Howard Deutch), a freshman theatre major who catches Jake’s eye almost right away. Beverly is very likable, though, so this disparity between male and female roles is not as problematic as it might otherwise have been. Elsewhere, like D&C, there’s only one black character in EWS who gets basically anything to do at all. At least EWS’s Dale (J. Quinton Johnson) has a lot more of a personality than did D&C’s Melvin.
Also worth mentioning is that, if you’re like me and are sports-wary, there is about as much baseball in EWS as there was in D&C, which is to say, not much—only one scene. You’ll get a lot more music here than you will sports—the film is set against the downfall of disco and the rise of things like punk and country and new wave, and it can be fun to judge how the filmmakers want you to perceive each character by the records visible in their collection. (Jake has Devo and Talking Heads, Beverly has Patti Smith.) And in this way, alongside the 1980 milieu the film is set in, you’ll find yourself comparing EWS not only to D&C but also stuff like Freaks & Geeks and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. And, most importantly, to your own life—if Dazed & Confused was about the point where your life starts to figure out how to get good (to paraphrase a line from My So-Called Life), Everybody Wants Some!! is about the point where you have the freedom to figure out both who you are and who you want to be. | Pete Timmermann