“My plan B,” writer-director Richard Linklater once said, “has always been to make a film about people who talk a lot.” This from the man who made Boyhood, SubUrbia, Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly and the Before trilogy (… Sunrise, … Sunset and … Midnight) with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. It makes you wonder what his plan A is.
Maybe Linklater’s plan A is to make raucous comedies set to irresistible rock-music soundtracks, like Dazed and Confused and School of Rock—and now, Everybody Wants Some!! Linklater’s latest is driven by a double-barreled nostalgia—first, because it’s set in 1980 and bristling with songs by Pat Benatar, Devo, Van Halen and Cheap Trick; and second, because it returns Linklater to his native Texas and loudly echoes Slackers and Dazed and Confused, the movies where he made his name back in the 1990s.
This new movie might as well be called Dazed and Confused and in College and Five Years Later. The trailers play up the resemblance, and Linklater himself calls Everybody Wants Some!! a “spiritual sequel.” He might have said it’s a virtual remake, with a similar assortment of amusing characters who are only a few months older.
The center of attention among the movie’s almost-all-male principals is Jake (Blake Jenner), a freshman with a baseball scholarship to an unnamed Texas university, arriving the Friday before classes start, moving into the slightly seedy house set aside for the team and meeting his new teammates: McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), the team’s leading alpha male, who disdains freshmen and pitchers, knowing Jake is both; Dale (J. Quinton Johnson), the team’s resident nice guy and, we notice with some surprise, only black player; Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), the bearded pothead whose smoky aphorisms sound profound only if you’re as stoned as he is; Niles (Juston Street), the arrogant blowhard who thinks this podunk college is just a whistle stop on his way to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown; Finnegan (Glen Powell), the pipe-sucking intellectual (by comparison, anyhow), who observes his teammates and himself with the wry detachment of an anthropologist.
There are others, but you get the idea. Much of the fun of Everybody Wants Some!! lies in the way Linklater and his appealing ensemble of newcomers and little-knowns sketch these individuals as archetypes rather than stereotypes. Another clever and canny touch is the presence of the movie’s sole female principal, Beverly (Zoey Deutch), a freshman fine-arts major whom Jake meets and bonds with on a level somewhat higher than the relentless horndoggery of the other guys. Deutch, in a role virtually identical to the one she played in the atrocious Bad Grandpa, gets a worthier showcase here, and her fetching presence helps redeem the streak of objectification in a movie where females have little to do but flash their boobs and mud wrestle.
It’ll be fun to look back at Everybody Wants Some!! in 10 years or so and see where the cast winds up; there may well be a star or two in the making here. Personally, my money is on Glen Powell; he easily steals every scene he’s in, and a breakthrough is surely in his future. For that matter, this movie may be it.