Daniel Walber's series looks at Production Design in contemporary and classic movies
College freshmen are usually a bit confused. Sometimes they even have trouble figuring out what kind of movie they’re in. But not Jake (Blake Jenner), the well-adjusted protagonist of Everybody Wants Some!! He’s got it all figured out by the film’s second half, when which he lets out the following pearl of wisdom: “Like most things with these guys, it’s total bullshit. It’s more about seeing how witty they can be.”
And he’s dead right. This movie is about a bunch of dudes who live from joke to joke, bouncing around town with an unceasing attitude of breezy, sex-charged humor. This isn’t one of those Linklater movies with big, yet simultaneously narrow ideas about what it means to be human (or married, or young, or male). Instead, like most of his best work, it’s content to soak in the sun and have a good time.
Now, if Jake had been paying attention to the production design, he probably would have picked up on this vibe even faster. Every set could be from a 1970s sitcom. Production designer Bruce Curtis and art director Rodney Becker, both of them Linklater regulars, and set decorator Gabriella Villarreal (American Crime) have crafted a perfectly playful atmosphere out of a silly, occasionally garish interpretation of the period.
It kicks off in the kitchen of the “baseball houses,” the team’s unconventional dorm...
The door and the cabinets are such a striking shade of lime green that you might not notice the wallpaper, which sports a pattern of green leaves and red berries. You can find similar style in the kitchens of The Partridge Family and Bewitched.
This design clears the way for an atmosphere of slightly frenzied levity. There may not be a laugh track, but that doesn’t matter. The house was built to facilitate the sexually free comedy of the polyester decade. Look no further than this bamboo print wallpaper:
The whimsically excessive props have much the same impact, starting with this ridiculous maroon waterbed. (Also notice the fluffy bigfoot rug on the floor.)
Here’s another choice item, a Lone Star bong.
The town’s bars are built to catch the eye even faster than the dorm. In this way, they might be even more like sitcom sets. No remote location on a TV comedy ever feels like a real place, but rather the exaggerated quintessence of that type of place. This is equally true of Everybody Wants Some!!, perhaps never more obviously than at Sound Machine, the town disco.
Every set is overloaded with charmingly redundant signifiers. Count the number of foxes in this still from a scene at the local pub, itself named after a fox. (That is, if you’re not once again blinded by the wallpaper.)
Even the baseball sequence lays it on thick. The lockers are all painted the same prominent purple as the team’s uniforms (and that waterbed). The back wall of the field has brightly colored ‘70s advertisements, including the irresponsibly punny “Bumper Crap Fertilizers.” Get it?
Frankly, the consistency of mood across so many different locations is even more impressive than the various mustaches and memorable pairs of short shorts. The final trump card is the “theater kid” party. Every shot in the sequence is brimming with color and light, from glowing hats and enormous hookahs to pinwheels and even louder walls.
The tension going into this final location is the genre’s most obvious, that jocks and theater kids don’t mix. Yet everyone gets along swimmingly. Everybody Wants Some!! steamrolls over this convention without even a hint of awkwardness. This works, in large part, due to the production design.
After all, aside from all of the glitter, this party isn’t all that different from all of the other locations in the film. The baseball players have spent the entire movie traveling between colorful sets, cracking jokes and behaving like the cast of a high-budget sitcom. They’re practically theater kids already. Why wouldn’t they fit in?