Saturday, April 2, 2016

Review: Everybody Wants Some!!

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
Richard Linklater's films are frequently plot-free and driven by dialogue, rather than characterization, although there's no doubt that the people populating his pictures are certainly characters. No, the je ne sais quoi of a Linklater movie is how it inundates you with musical cues, nonstop banter and a sense of time and place and how, after a while, you realize that the director has snuck up on you with profundity from places you'd least expect it.

And that's certainly the case with "Everybody Wants Some!!," the director's self-proclaimed spiritual sequel to his 1993 classic "Dazed and Confused," although the picture also has elements in common with his 2014 masterpiece "Boyhood." Yes, this picture is funny - often riotously so - and, yes, there's great music galore and a cast of virtual unknowns who deserve to be so no longer. But while the film follows its leads from one party to the next and there's more than a fair share of bacchanalia on display, there's something deeper at play here that takes its time to present itself.

While "Dazed" was set during a 24-hour period on the final day of high school in 1976 for a handful of characters, Linklater's latest takes place during the final weekend before college starts at an Austin school in 1980. Although the film is arguably an ensemble piece, our guide is in the form of Jake (Blake Jenner), a good looking and mostly unassuming freshman who will live in the baseball house with his teammates. Linklater apparently played a few years of college baseball and this film is alleged to be based on some of his experiences.

There's a whole roster of great supporting characters populating the house, most notably Finnegan (Glen Powell), a motor-mouthed pseudo philosopher whose reigning philosophy is getting laid and adapting to any scene to do so. There's also Willoughby (Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt and Goldie Hawn), a stoner with elaborate philosophies of his own, as well as Plummer (Temple Baker), a fellow freshman and lovable meathead, the uber-competitive McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin, a dead ringer for Billy Crudup) and Dale (J. Quinton Johnson). I could go on and on, but suffice it to say it's a great cast.

A few reviews have referred to Jake as a "bland" character, but I prefer to think of him as a blank slate, which suits the purpose of this film perfectly. Similar to many incoming freshman, his is a personality not fully formed. And while it may be slightly unrealistic that he would come to find himself, so to speak, over the course of a weekend, it works in the context of the picture.

One of the most fascinating elements of the film is how Jake and his crew of horny teammates - all of whom leer at every woman who crosses their paths of vision and, yet, prove over time that they are not assholes - adapt to any situation in order to score with women (although they get rejected more often than not) but how, in the end, the various cross cultural experiences they undergo make them more well-rounded. During the course of their wild weekend, they start at a disco club, venture into a country and western bar, get dragged to a raucous punk show and end up at a party being thrown by theater students.

This latter party occurs as the result of Jake's becoming smitten with Beverly (Zoey Deutch), a lovely and bright theater major who also happens to be the only fully formed female character in the movie. And there's a reason for that. We are purposefully entrenched with the baseball players, so that Jake - and, perhaps, his teammates - can later understand that there's a bigger world outside their parties and juvenile behavior.

A funny thing I realized while watching the film was how long it actually took for us to see these guys play baseball. In fact, there's only one scene in the entire movie, but it's gracefully handled. It also provides a great opportunity to build further camaraderie between the characters and gives us new perspectives on some of them. For instance, McReynolds originally comes off as a competitive jerk, but during a scene in which he confronts another character who is showboating, he instantly becomes more likable. And there's a scene of such a type that accompanies nearly all of the character's films, which is further proof of Linklater's generosity as a filmmaker.

"Everybody Wants Some!!" is often very funny, but there's much more to it than being a knock-off of "Dazed and Confused" and its characters discover some profound truths along the way. There's an early scene in which Willoughby tokes up along with Jake and a few others, expounding on the musical prowess of Pink Floyd and making the point that great music - and, perhaps, life - is about finding the "tangent in the framework." Or, in other words, doing well with what you've got.

During a scene late in the film, Jake surprises Beverly and helps to quash the stereotype of the dumb jock when he discusses his college entrance exam, on which he combined the myth of Sisyphus and baseball in an insightful manner, writing about how the Gods actually gave the Greek a gift in the form of something he could focus on and perfect. Jake and Beverly ponder the concept of working with what life gives you - AKA the tangent in the framework - and how that can be a beautiful thing. Not surprisingly, when Jake finally makes it to his first class, the teacher has scribbled the quote "frontiers are where you find them" on the blackboard.

So, while "Everybody Wants Some!!" shares in common many elements with "Dazed and Confused" - such as its era, music, casting, setup and style - it can also be seen as a spiritual continuation of "Boyhood," which ended with its protagonist on his first weekend in college, where he also found a romantic interest and, perhaps, realized that his raison d'etre was awaiting him somewhere out beyond that vast sky he gazed upon. The smile that crosses Jake's face at the culmination of Linklater's latest picture is a possible indication his is out there somewhere as well. "Everybody Wants Some!!" is very funny and an overall great time, but it's also thoughtful and of-a-piece with Linklater's increasingly impressive body of work.

No comments:

Post a Comment