Six years after college, with a face that settles slightly lower on my skull than it did back then, it’s soothing to look back at the period with embellished fondness. Reflecting back on the period through the trenches of day-in-day-out routine, what college offered was a respite from the responsibilities of adulthood, a sort of refuge, where time didn’t possesses an overwhelming sense of urgency – where it wasn’t something that moved at the rate of 60 minutes an hour. You’ll find a relaxed countdown clock ticking away every so often in Richard Linklater’s new film, Everybody Wants Some!! The countdown marks the arrival of a student to a Texas college campus to his first day of class, a transition that marks the move from doe-eyed aspiration to onerous doing.
It’s 1980, where our focal point within a Texas university’s baseball team is freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner), possessing all the doe-eyed aspirations one could expect from someone entering a testosterone-fueled fraternity house of his fellow teammates. From senior team captain McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) to stoner philosophizer Willoughby (Wyatt Russell) to the hyper-aggressive “raw dawg” Jay (Juston Street), the bench of characters that orbits Jake’s weekend of transgressions is profoundly rich. As the film’s characters begin to mingle outside the confines of their boarding house, we see Linklater loosely structure the film around parties, wherein each new communal gathering presents a different set of obstacles and expectations out of its characters, and where a lingering countdown clock makes its presence most tangibly known.
Linklater, never one to shy away from gambits of verbal profundity, remains keen on prospecting for nuggets of wisdom within the confines of sex-fueled disco parties and hoedowns. For one, it’s the perpetual shift in milieus that’s most striking. As these meathead jocks course from disco nightclubs to punk mosh pits, Linklater delicately and without pretention comments on the broadening pool of choices that comes with campus life; that college, when effective, teaches its students to expand their worldview and more importantly, to choose to make that leap of faith.
As naïve as Jake may be, it’s Linklater’s fondness for the era that registers most prominently. From the crackling opening set to The Knack’s My Sharona to the sorbet of colors that compose the picture’s production design, Linklater’s affinity for the era is evident from every composed frame. Surprisingly, this utopian milieu and Linklater’s relaxed obligation to plot does not preclude a dramatic sensibility. Everybody Wants Some!! is a capital A American film, one that extends past its narrative plot points, wherein the American spirit of masculine competition and youthful hedonism propel the picture’s direction.
As with much of Linklater’s oeuvre, the lingering concern remains that of time. Whereas these concerns were much more overtly realized in Boyhood and the Before trilogy, Everybody Wants Some!! is so relaxed and unconcerned with anything beyond its characters next stimuli that it may come across as slight. That’s simply not the case. Casual asides and rejoinders expose a film that is so acutely aware of the passages of youth, of existing in the here and now, along with a keen awareness of what it means to live in the there and then. As Willoughby is exposed for falsely enrolling in college during the team’s first practice, we are casually reminded of what brought him and all these baseball players together in the first place: their perceived athletic talents. Talent is its own exception and while the college experience is one to be treasured, your failure to capitalize will see it recede into your periphery. Not to suggest that the film is some kind of bummer, but rather to say that like with many of Linklater’s studies on time and its passing, the results are often quite bittersweet.