“Everybody Wants Some!!” (2016) – “In my bright, utopian future world, they will hand out college educations like cups of water at the end of the L.A. Marathon.” – Henry Rollins
Southeast Texas University does not hand out free education like cups of water, but like many schools, it offers athletic scholarships to a select group of young men and women. One of them is Jake (Blake Jenner), a tall, wide-eyed freshman with all-state honors as a baseball pitcher. Despite his high school accolades, Jake soon learns – after meeting his teammates who reside at two off-campus houses – that position players (infielders and outfielders) consider pitchers weird and just plain different. Now Jake does seem odd at all, and quite frankly, he appears as a nice, all-American kid, but in the world of being the new guy on campus, some hazing and teasing are predicted and expected.
Set in 1980, director Richard Linklater delivers a terrifically entertaining college experience – wonderfully packaged in a musical and visual nostalgic trip to yesterdecade – and offers predicted sequences of hijinks and fun but also unexpected moments of heart and growth. With films like “Boyhood” (2014), “Before Sunrise” (1995) and “Dazed and Confused” (1993), Linklater tends to place everyday characters in commonplace circumstances, but with clever scriptwriting and the actors’ belief in the material, bigger concepts organically rise to the surface and resonate with relatable feelings of past, personal experiences for the audience.
“Dazed and Confused” – about the last day of high school in 1976 – transported us to both high school and a distinct, reflective time, and therefore “Everybody Wants Some!!” instantly becomes a companion film because of its look back to 1980, specifically three days and 15 hours before the fall semester begins. The overall narrative develops into a countdown until classes start, but in the meantime, Jake and 15 or so teammates have too much idle time on their hands.
The baseball team houses a collection of characters who sometimes resemble 20 year-old versions of the Charlestown Chiefs minor league hockey club from “Slapshot” (1977), including one mental case named Jay (Juston Street), who may have channeled all three Hanson brothers into his caustic personality. With a mix of some semi-sensible leaders like Finn (Glen Powell) and Dale (J. Quinton Johnson) to some oddballs like Nesbit (Austin Amelio) and Brumley (Tanner Kalina), the team fields several memorable individuals during their collective pursuit of booze and girls.
The actors provide plenty of welcomed charisma and noteworthy individuality to the players. I actually found myself actively cricking my neck in looking for specific teammates to enter the screen during the previously mentioned idle time to add to the banter on the dangers of filling a waterbed on a 2nd floor of an old house and the best places to meet girls, such as a disco bar called Sound Machine. Although the guys – generally speaking – objectify women, the college girls notably and equally objectify the men in return. Refreshingly, men and women rightfully feel like equals while their collective 20 year-old hormones reach extra innings, and the movie also includes some sweet moments between Jake and a kindhearted and smart performance arts student named Beverly (Zoey Deutch).
Linklater’s movie definitely feels like a love letter to college, but it does not incorporate difficult classes, due dates for essay assignments or final exams. Instead the film focuses on post-adolescent friendships, encounters and new experiences through the lens of questionable haircuts, knee-high tube socks and a killer retro-soundtrack, including The Knack, Blondie, Devo, and Van Halen. Sigh, if only movies like “Everybody Wants Some!!” were handed out in theatres like cups of water at the end of a marathon.
Well, for 1 hour and 57 minutes, my cup runneth over.
Image credits: Paramount Pictures, Annapurna Pictures, Trailer credits: Movieclips Trailers