A shabby two-story home stands in the middle of a suburban Texas street. Step inside and you’ll find stained wallpaper, mismatched furniture that somebody probably found with a “FOR FREE” sign on it, and a ceiling that looks as if it could collapse at a moment’s notice. Empty cans of Lonestar and miscellaneous longneck bottles litter the living room, the porch, the lawn, the roof, the bathroom. Beautiful college girls in short shorts they wore the night before descend the porch steps and walk back to their dorms. Inside, the bros share stories of their sexual conquests and get ready to do the same thing again later that night.
No, I’m not describing the setting of another Van Wilder movie. This is Richard Linklater’s latest film Everybody Wants Some!!, yet another incredible success from one of the most gifted filmmakers of our generation.
Billed as the “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused, the film takes place over the course of one weekend in 1980 leading up to the first day of classes at an unnamed university. While there are many similarities between the two films, Everybody Wants Some!! shies away from the vignette structure of Dazed and instead focuses on the exploits of the baseball team, framed mostly from the perspective of Jake Bradford (played by Blake Jenner), a handsome and charming freshman pitcher who moves into off-campus housing with seven other ballplayers. If anything, Everybody is more of a direct sequel to Boyhood, because it picks up right where that film left off: college. Blake Jenner even looks like a more athletic, corn-fed All-American version of Ellar Coltrane, who played the character of Mason over the course of 12 years in Boyhood.
Let me get this out of the way right now: yes, Everybody Wants Some!! is even better than Dazed and Confused. While the latter is obviously very humorous at times, it’s also a film about identity crises and the more brutal, unpleasant aspects of high school. Since Everybody is all about letting the good times roll, it’s raucously funny and positive from start to finish. But that doesn’t make it less interesting. There are moments, conversations and themes here that can and will resonate with everyone: weed-fueled existential conversations late at night, silly competitions between friends that sometimes go too far, or even something as simple as how to ask someone out on a date. In between the party scenes and baseball talk, there is always some little nugget of wisdom or a genuinely moving moment between two characters injected into the equation which makes the film into something more than what you’d expect from a typical college comedy.
The true magic of Linklater’s films is his astonishing ability to make characters feel organic, both in the dialogue he writes and the performances he coaxes from his actors. This may be the most exemplary model of his humanist approach to filmmaking thus far. Using mostly unknown actors as was the case in Dazed, every single person feels like a perfect representation of someone you know. These characters feel lived in. Sure, there’s no show-stopping, iconic performance on the level of Matthew McConaughey’s legendary part in Dazed, but every character is given some time in the spotlight and it just works every single time. Not only that, but there’s an immaculate sense of time and place established that is carried through the whole film. I wouldn’t be surprised if the “making of” featurette comes out a few months from now and we find out Linklater and his crew all packed into a Delorean, gunned it to 1980 and simply pointed cameras at these kids and documented their quest to land some tail.
Does the movie present a very white male-centric perspective of the world? Yes, and I understand that has been a criticism of Linklater’s work. But, what makes this movie in particular so special is that even though it’s about a bunch of young jocks trying to get laid, it’s universal in its appeal in spite of that. You don’t have to have been a baseball player. You don’t have to have gone to keggers and made some questionable life choices. Hell, you don’t even have to have gone to college to appreciate not just the humor, but also the care and obvious passion that went into doing this story the right way. It’s the funniest movie I’ve seen in years, the music is absolutely killer, and it’s even touching at times. Everybody Wants Some!! is the first must-see movie of 2016.