Eric here, with unhappy thoughts on the new Richard Linklater film. Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! promises a two-exclamation-point experience, but it unfortunately delivers as more of an ellipsis, in the true Greek meaning of “falling short”.
Now would be the moment in a review where one encapsulates the plot, but hands up on that, because Everybody is plot-free (self-consciously so). Let’s say it’s structured around a freshman (Blake Jenner) arriving at college three days before classes start in short-shorts (happy 1980!). We follow him through those three days with his baseball-team-cum-frat-brothers in the pursuit of the game and the girls...
Ask almost any white heterosexual movie-loving male between the ages of 35 and 50 to list their favorite three directors, Richard Linklater will inevitably appear on that list. This seems due largely to his 1993 cult smash Dazed and Confused. Or it could, if one were cynical, be due in part because most of Linklater’s films feature a white heterosexual male protoganist in some state of arrested development. It’s like Linklater’s boys have been waiting for his permission that they can finally grow up, and in last year’s Boyhood, he finally did just that, to the tune of film critic awards nationwide. Linklater himself grew up, too: Boyhood was a fully mature film, where the trajectory of the young lead was merely a set-up for the growth of the Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette characters. Boyhood traded on the Eric Rohmer-like pacing and grace notes of Linklater’s finest films to date (the Before series with Hawke and Julie Delpy) and raised the stakes…he was finally doing some real probing and questioning about how we can all miss out on the most beautiful things in life because we’re not paying attention.
One could argue that this is once again the theme of Everybody Wants Some!!, if there is one. At one moment a teacher writes “Frontiers are where you find them” on a blackboard, to which our protagonist responds with a nap. But it’s truly depressing to watch Linklater go from the sophistication and control of Boyhood to the laconic and flat work he does in this new movie. Nothing in Everybody would ever make you think this movie was made by a major filmmaker: not one interesting shot composition, not one keen insight, not a basic sense of pacing or style or finesse. It’s like Porky’s without the stupid puerile joy. But at least Glen Powell (Scream Queens) playing the alpha dog at the baseball house, once again shows his flair for cocky comedy. If only the movie gave him more to do.
Nothing happens in Everybody Wants Some!!. That’s not a problem if a film is giving you new insights into human behavior or terrific dialogue But there’s nothing in Everybody that we all haven’t seen hundreds of times before (and even often from Linklater himself). Scenes are keyed up as if it’s the most hilarious thing in the world just to watch someone smoke weed. And there’s an unbelievably awful set piece in the movie where Jenner takes his baseball friends to a “party full of performing arts people” that is so phony and disingenuous you’ll wonder if Linklater had ever met someone in college who majored in theater.
The film contains a great soundtrack for people who love to exclaim about movies “oh my god, that movie has such a great soundtrack!” But for a film with two exclamation points, one wants not just some but more; was anyone's college experience this dull?