Eric previously argued against Everybody Wants Some!! right here. Here's Daniel Crooke with a second opinion....
Nobody lives in the moment like Richard Linklater. Which is remarkable, considering his canny cinematic ability to lounge with a certain slice of society, simultaneously celebrate and circumvent the trappings of self-importance, and extrapolate no less than what one might call the meaning of life. This is not to say that Linklater offers any absolute definitions – or that he’s a sage Second Coming who has all of them – but that he stands alone when it comes to unassumingly examining issues of identity, socialization, and finding the place where one fits in the world. His latest film Everybody Wants Some!! is no exception; in fact, by isolating one group of folks oft regarded as empty-headed and disposable – that of the jock, the bro, whatever you call them when their glistening pecs aren’t in your way – Linklater challenges the viewer to costume change their own preconceptions along with his ensemble as they amble their way through myriad modes of social circles and shooting the shit.
Now, on its face, one can certainly see why these bong-hit beats would preclude certain audience members from even engaging with the characters onscreen, to miss the forest for the trees. Linklater’s films often work as living, breathing Rorschach tests where you only see what you want to see but the marrow of Everybody Wants Some!! is found in the Magic Eye of it all. Blur the edges of the frame. Blend the bro code, social structures, and pronounced personal differences from the brain’s left side and the spontaneous soul-searching, open-ended quests across campus, and embracing of social overlaps from the right and, in the middle, you’ll find what the film’s really about. More after the jump...
And it’s not about how great it is to be a jock; it’s about how embracing impulse, exploring every open channel, and talking to every person you meet will teach you how to find yourself within whatever social strata you inhabit and how to find the right foot forward from there.
Everybody Wants Some!! turns the baseball jersey inside out and cuts the tag, locating the extension of these guys’ privilege and challenging it at every turn. When you consider how every scene inside the frat house invokes an infight for status and sore losers – a game of knuckle-slapping or shotgunning – and everything beyond the front door counters their entire worldview – whether that means being punks for a night and moshing like mad or bathing in true bacchanalia with the thespians – this search becomes clear. The film’s gender politics – especially compared to Dazed and Confused, the original metric for this film’s “spiritual sequel” – are alarming until you consider that in order for there to even be a box for our characters to break out of, it must provide a subscribed way of life in the first place with warts and all. Certainly one can’t help but wish for a version of Parker Posey’s indelible Darla or Michelle Burke’s wise Jodi to pop up, but they’re way too good for these guys and the film is smart to note that they have a lot of wising up to do before they deserve an opportunity for their audience.
While Linklater has a grand old time retracing the steps of his youth with these guys, consider Willoughby (Wyatt Russell) – he’s the player who’s been around forever and been steeping in this baseball tea the longest, and objectifying women is the last thing on his mind. Instead pursuing philosophy (natch, this is a Linklater film…what would it be without a Proust-spouting pothead?) and encouraging his teammates to find their passion off the field and in their minds, it stands to reason that if the film truly endorsed this way of living as altruistic and supreme then the elder statesman would be whistling Dixie and never leaving bed.
This to say nothing of Everybody Wants Some!!’s endless supply of visual joys. Watching McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) slice a baseball down the middle with a hatchet in slow motion, muscles aglow. A carful of college boys singing along to Rapper’s Delight for minutes on end, tossing the mic with glee. An ass shake that will never end. Sliding down a staircase on a mattress. A inner tube sunrise. And so many white boys pathetically losing their minds over a mindless loss. Linklater shoots with the same blink-and-you-miss-it authority as a film like Spotlight; it may seem like the camera’s just been plopped into a scene at random but pay attention and you’ll find that each dirty shot carefully includes the audience as the next member of the team. Notice in one particular scene of the guys chilling on a bedroom floor, Linklater never places the camera above eye level and always at an open spot in the circle for you to get cross-legged and wax rhapsodically about a topic you’re not qualified to discuss.
Everybody Wants Some!! leaves the guys as cocksure and horny as he found them, but richer with experience and wiser when making the next move. It’s a celebration of figuring things out – yes, things, that vague word that encompasses everything and nothing – and enjoying the small moments in between. What everybody wants is a place and a face to call their own. It goes for national identity, as well; the 1980-set film takes place on the ideological cusp of the death knell of Morning In America. And as Kyle Buchanan beautifully pointed out in Vulture a couple weeks ago, it also happens to be the gayest straight boy movie of the year. Richard Linklater ain’t the savior but he makes a strong case for being the patron saint of Being Yourself.