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Review: Everybody Wants Some!!

April 1, 2016

By John Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

Everybody Wants Some PosterRichard Linklater is the undisputed master of hangout movies.  His films beautifully show characters simply existing within a period of time, from the almost real time narrative framing of Before Sunset, to the collection of moments from a young life that he so poignantly captured in his masterpiece Boyhood.

And now comes Everybody Wants Some!!, so named for the Van Halen song, a wildly entertaining and ultimately bittersweet college party movie that is fuelled by nostalgia.  It’s being billed as a “spiritual sequel” to the Texas filmmaker’s end of high school classic Dazed and Confused, and this comparison offers the perfect idea of what to expect from the film.

Although the actors and characters are obviously all different from 1993, Everybody Wants Some!! is tonally cut from the same cloth as Dazed and Confused.  But where that film followed different groups of friends on the final night of high school in 1976, this one is staged during the first weekend of college in 1980, when everybody is just arriving and getting to know each other.

The free flowing plot unfolds over three days, counting down until the morning when classes actually start.  The through line is Jake (Blake Jenner), a baseball pitcher who has just arrived at college, bringing with him a crate of records.  He’s staying at one of the two boarding houses that provide residence for the baseball players, and their coach (Jonathan Breck) tells them they aren’t allowed any booze or girls upstairs, rules that are made to be delightfully broken over a raucous montage.

There isn’t much of a traditional story here, and this is precisely the joy of the film.  It’s another fun party movie, filled with a wide range of characters who we come to know over the course of the nearly two hour running time.  Among others, there’s the stoner always at the ready with a joint or bong (Wyatt Russell), the weirdo and self-professed “raw dog” (Juston Street), and the hillbilly roommate (Will Brittain) that everyone unkindly picks on.  You get the idea.  There’s also a cute theatre student named Beverly (Zoey Deutch), who becomes the object of Jake’s affection.

There is a youthful spontaneity to the proceedings that makes every scene of Everybody Wants Some!! incredibly enjoyable to watch.  The beer flows freely, as an awesome selection of classic songs blast on the soundtrack.  We follow the characters as they hang out at bars, go to the disco, and check out a country club.  Dancing, sexual advances, and mostly friendly rivalries inevitably ensue.  Throughout it all, the film delivers scene after scene of hilarious hijinks and highly quotable dialogue, underscored with insightful and bittersweet ruminations on life sprinkled in along the way.

Although scripted, there is an improvisational quality to many of the scenes, as Richard Linklater once again displays his genuine gift for capturing little character moments that linger long afterwards.  The entire ensemble cast delivers uniformly solid work, with an easygoing banter between them.  The actors all lived together on the director’s farm property during the rehearsal process, coming up with different ideas for their characters, and developing a very natural sense of chemistry and camaraderie that really shines through in the film.

There are no parents seen onscreen, adding to the feeling of young adults heading out and forging their own place in the world, which is coincidentally the exact same point in time when Boyhood ended.  Like Richard Linklater’s other films, Everybody Wants Some!! also reaches a moment near the end that brings added resonance to everything we’ve just seen.  This film finds this moment from a quiet scene on the lake between Jake and Beverly that offers a bittersweet ode to embracing the time you’ve got and doing whatever it is that you’re passionate about.  As Matthew McConaughey’s iconic character from Dazed and Confused would have said, you’ve gotta “just keep livin’.”

Richard Linklater has a genuine talent for capturing the pure joy of living in the moment like few other filmmakers can, balancing the many pleasures of his films with quietly profound realizations of how time is fleeting, and that we need to find pleasure in it whenever we can.  With this message never far behind, Everybody Wants Some!! is simply a lot of fun, an always engaging and deceptively deep nostalgia trip that just might be the sweetest hangout of the year.

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