EVERYBODY WANTS SOME Review
Director: Richard Linklater
Ah, the 80s, a time where fraternity parties had a production designer, all college students were 6’2″, and women were 90% butt. In an attempt to bring DAZED & CONFUSED a decade into the future, Richard Linklater has released what could best be described as the deleted scenes of BOYHOOD’s limp finale. You probably remember 2014’s critical darling, a film that most people frolicked to like the resurrection of Christ, and though I’m not going to go down the rabbit hole of explaining everything there is to loathe about that flawed experiment 12 years in the making, I will say that Linklater has finally released the closest thing to a happy medium of his two most celebrated projects with EVERYBODY WANTS SOME. Both for good, and for bad.
What makes EVERYBODY WANTS SOME a tough cookie is that, as a Linklater fan but a BOYHOOD naysayer, this might actually be the first in the auteur’s oeuvre that elicited nothing but a casual nod and a bro-coated smirk from me. Linklater shines here in ways that he hasn’t since DAZED & CONFUSED, banking on elegantly blocked scenes and beautifully naturalistic performances, and his control of empathy is unrivaled in this picture. But with everything he does right in this project, many of BOYHOOD’s glaring annoyances transitioned over as well, most notably the director’s lazy shorthand of reminding viewers that it’s the 1980s through constant pop-culture references, making for a period picture that’s really hell-bent on being little more than a nostalgia-coated comedy romp. While this might be fine for other filmmakers, it’s frustrating to see the same man who brought us BERNIE and the BEFORE TRILOGY stoop to filmmaking that only serves to pander to aging ANIMAL HOUSE fans.
Pictured: College Photo of Freddie Mercury among Greek Gods
Yet at the same time, there is one thing that must be said in Linklater’s defense: EVERYBODY WANTS SOME is unabashedly bro-y. In fact, it’s so confident in its display of collegiate masculinity that it manages to completely dismantle any misogynistic critique due to its unashamed naiveté. Linklater doesn’t care that his characters are complete tools in the eyes of the millennial crowd, because his film is consumed with the idea of displaying how recklessly shitty American males were three decades ago (and probably still are today). Oddly enough, this is also the film’s saving grace, because the consistent display of machismo is what helps set it apart from generic college comedies.
However, what this doesn’t excuse is how lazily it handles female characters. It’s fine to have a film starring a crew of sex-crazed bros, but every instance where the film cuts away from a prospective female lead, it not only feels lazy, but like a missed opportunity to dig into the lives of potentially more interesting characters. Linklater’s male leads are endlessly sympathetic, but unashamedly terrible people, and though this helps set the film apart from its college romp contemporaries, it’s Linklater’s protagonist that hampers any further profundity.
“Hey, babe, you know how many scenes are in this film where you don’t speak with me?”
Where BOYHOOD’s Ellar Coltrane quietly drove off to college only to reflect on his generic, white boy existence, Linklater attempted to put a decidedly less lame face on his new leading man. Cue Blake Jenner, a 23-year-old actor who’s so god damn chiseled that he certainly has a career as a living statue waiting for him as a backup plan. Sadly, 30 minutes into the film, it becomes obvious that Jenner is yet another white boy who’s just a little less angsty but a whole lot less believable in the shoes of a college freshman. As such, he never amounts to anything but a palette cleanser for his competitive bros, a watchful eye that winks back at the audience to serve as a reminder that Linklater doesn’t fully tolerate this belligerence, but… kind of, yes, maybe. It’s this ambiguity that also drives me crazy watching Linklater’s film. For a filmmaker who’s famous for his deep character pieces, EVERYBODY WANTS SOME is – much like BOYHOOD – a vapid menagerie of retro decor.
What’s all the more frustrating is that in addition to being so cavalier with its characters, EVERYBODY WANTS SOME features a non-plot. While this narrative approach isn’t anything new, and surely not anything bad — hell, Linklater has proven his ability to pull it off with DAZED & CONFUSED — it’s agitating to watch a film that is simply a series of elongated skits featuring a cast of angry athletes who constantly reaffirm a thematic throughline of competition. The segues that tie in each of these sequences are also painfully forced, exterminating any subtlety by having Jenner blatantly spell out what it is the viewer is supposed to gather from watching two guys flick each other’s knuckles. What Linklater clearly forgot is that, in addition to the retro soundtrack, the TWILIGHT ZONE REFERENCES, and the Carl Sagan quotes, he also needs to give his protagonist a purpose even if the film doesn’t have an external conflict, and what better place to draw inspiration from than AMERICAN GRAFFITI, the progenitor of this narrative style?
“Alright, Alright, Alright, I’ll Win An Oscar In A Few Decades”
Where Lucas crafted a non-plot around a character struggling with his need to leave home, a la Fellini’s spectacular I VITELLONI, Linklater has characters engaging in a symphony of belligerence, tracking the subcultures of sports, disco, country, theatre, and punk as if on some safari ride straight out of the picturebook imaginings of a 14-year-old’s vision of college in the 80s. This milieu, filled with runway models and wild parties, is a fun venue to explore, but also feels needlessly fantastical. Once again, while this would be a terrible aesthetic choice for a film aiming for vérité, Linklater at least doesn’t lie to himself about how absurdly convenient his set pieces are in tracing every tidbit of nostalgia. However, what’s inexcusable is that these vignettes are non-sequiturs and hold no bearing on the characters and their relationships to one another, resulting in a product that’s flashy and fun, but doesn’t actually say anything valuable.
If Linklater has proven anything, it’s that a charming cast can take you far, and I mean really far. Despite its flat leading man, it’s the engaging performances from Wyatt Russell, Temple Baker, J. Quinton Johnson, and co. that salvage the hollow project on display. Sexy, electric, and filled to the brim with a desire to make audiences fall in love with its ragtag team of baseball bros, Linklater has unleashed a film so obsessively masculine that it warrants a watch merely for its audacity. Though there is a lot of raw entertainment to be found in this project, it’s also a film that constantly serves to remind viewers of all the exciting narrative beats it’s missing in favor of more rowdy behavior and nostalgia-tripping. As such, EVERYBODY WANTS SOME’s hollow interior eliminates any desire to really recommend the film to anyone that isn’t craving a reiteration of the ANIMAL HOUSE formula. Is it funner than BOYHOOD? Sure. But it’s also easily the least impressive in the filmmakers canon.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend