Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
★★★★ / ★★★★
Those expecting a defined beginning, middle, and end, along with the standard parabolas of plot and pacing, are certain to be disappointed by “Everybody Wants Some!!,” written and directed by Richard Linklater, a delightful and fresh comedy about college baseball players simply living, bonding, and partying together before the first day of university.
In mainstream films, especially comedies, jocks are almost always a target of ridicule. They are often depicted are dumb, mean, and sexist, sometimes downright racist—with nothing on their minds but throwing balls, driving expensive cars, chasing girls, and getting some action. We are so aware of these stereotypes that we almost expect these assumptions to come to the surface every time we meet a character in the movies who just so happens to be passionate about sports or a specific sport. Linklater, a most humanistic writer-director, unveils a world where audiences do not have to settle for the lowest hanging fruit. Instead, he inspires us to look up and recognize alternatives that are much closer to reality.
The picture is an extended hangout with the guys. Aside from their shared athleticism, they are painfully ordinary which makes them all the more relatable. Our conduit to the story is pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner), one of the five incoming freshmen who, like their seniors, were the best baseball players in their high schools. It is interesting to observe the dynamics of the team members as they live in two neighboring houses. All of them are competitive; all of them hate losing. When someone loses a game, even it is over something as silly as a pingpong match or a round of billiards, we get a chance to peek at their true characters. Hilarity ensues.
But the film is funny not because there are great gags that can only happen in the movies. Amusement often comes in our recognition of ourselves in characters we don’t image we can relate with on any level at first glance. Sometimes it is through a character’s specific sense of humor. Unlike mundane comedies we have been accustomed to being constantly subjected to, every jock we meet here has a personality, a perspective, a certain unpredictability. Each of them has a different “self” which can be observed when he is in a group versus conversing with only one other person. It is enjoyable to discover who they are in different environments and circumstances because sometimes they might not even know who they are just yet.
From a technical standpoint, most impressive is the writer-director’s confidence in modulating pacing and tone. Observe that about halfway through when the guys have started to become familiar with one another, there is a considerable slowdown of pace and the tone leans toward a more philosophical ground. There are still parties but the parties in the latter half are not only about getting drunk or hooking up any longer. There is a great exchange between Jake and Finnegan (Glen Powell) in a punk party where they acknowledge that experiences allow them to put on identities that they can choose to take away and cultivate. I loved that there are valuable lessons dispersed throughout the film that one cannot learn only by sitting in a classroom.
Notice I have not used to the word “nostalgia.” The story is set in end-of-summer 1980 and there are wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) music, clothes, hairstyles, slangs and phrases. But to define the picture as mere nostalgia is to deny it ample credit. Take away these so-called nostalgic elements and it remains a great picture because its core radiates humanism. “Everybody Wants Some!!,” like Linklater’s excellent comedy “Dazed and Confused,” is a piece of work that will, or should be, remembered many years down the line. Both films simply show young people as young people and such an honest approach transcends time.