"You've got to embrace your inner strange, man. Just be weird."
Richard Linklater has described this latest directorial outing as the “spiritual sequel” to ‘Dazed and Confused’, a title that carries some weight to it. ‘Dazed and Confused’ is a indisputably great movie, one that you can revisit time and time again the same way that you would revisit old friends, hang out with them, reminisce with them and consider what lies in store. ‘Everybody Wants Some’ has to reflect that ideology but also represent a shift of perspective, after all it’s been over two decades since we left Pink, Wooderson, Slater and Simone travelling down that highway (I wonder if they ever got those Aerosmith tickets) and we’ve grown up a lot since then.
August, 1980. As baseball player Jake (Blake Jenner) arrives at his Texan college he has a few days before classes begin to bond with his new teammates and settle into this new phase of his life.
You may notice that the plot summary I gave there was somewhat vague and the reason is because you have to think of this film in the same vein that you would ‘Dazed and Confused’ (incidentally my recommended synopsis of that film is as follows; 1973, the last day of school. End of synopsis) a film that plays fast and loose, it doesn’t stop to admire it’s more profound moments, is simply lets the audience find them for themselves, much the same way that life itself works. Where Linklater succeeded is by taking a story of dumb teenagers and making it a profound reflection of life without anyone really knowing why. To this day I can never exactly pin down why ‘Dazed and Confused’ stands as one of my all-time favourite movies, I just know that I love it.
‘Everybody Wants Some’ has a similar feel to it, from one viewing it can be seen as a film that simply follows a few ordinary days of life, but somehow saying so much more. Over the course of three days we see the characters attending four different parties and in between they just sit around and talk. Plotting is rarely at the forefront of Linklater’s writing, it’s the characters and camaraderie between them that make up this story and it’s one that risks being overindulgent or clichéd. But somehow it avoids that, either by emphasising certain events of leaving other unmentioned the film rarely feels like it’s trying to be something. For example no one ever seems to question how every character seems to have a complete wardrobe change between each party, but at the same time there is such a bravado to the characters competitive nature that it’s almost self-referentially hilarious. A friendly game of ping pong goes to a life or death situation and it’s all played completely straight faced, the flip from one extreme to another is what helps emphasise that none of this is really meant to be taken seriously.
But on the other hand, a lot of it is. One aspect of Linklater’s writing that I have always admired is how ne never shows an ounce of contempt for his characters, he never undermines their struggles and always shows compassion to them. He makes their problems our problems, whether it be about the ever changing hierarchy of the college house, pulling girls or baseball, we become invested in all of them.
The characters in question are very make oriented. 12 characters, all men. In that respect the film loses some of the scope that ‘Dazed and Confused’ had. The women in ‘Everybody Wants Some’ are supporting characters, the driving force of the guy’s desires to either be conquered or met with harsh rejection. Some have labelled this as misogyny but I feel as if there are enough examples of the men being put squarely in their place, being reminded of their own adolescent stupidity or just acting idiotically enough on their own to remind us that this isn’t a case of women being treated poorly, it’s just that the story is not from their perspective. The macho-jock image is ridiculed just as much as it is admired.
Those jocks in question are assembled from a relatively unknown cast. Together they create a group of shifting alliances, jostling positions, comradeship and it somehow works perfectly. There isn’t necessarily an individual that steals the show but the group work so well together, their chemistry and solidarity being equally impressive that as the film ploughs along, more and more they strat to resemble an old group of friend.
Linklater doesn’t seek to mock the past, nor does he seek to boast of it, he simply wants to say how fun it was.