One of the most tiresome inquiries I get as a film buff/critic is “what is your favorite kind of movie?” I hate this question because my honest answer is I don’t have one. And that is probably true of most if not all who are really passionate about film. Those that really study the craft learn to appreciate all genres, enjoying films based on quality of execution, not subject matter. I always try to teach people to follow not genres or stars, but writers and directors, as this is a reliably more accurate way for anyone to track down films they might like. One genre I absolutely would never have called my favorite though, if I were to answer, is the genre of college sex comedy. Yet lo and behold, Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! is just that and I loved every minute of it!
Billed as a spiritual sequel to Linklater’s 1994 hit Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! in some ways feels like a literal sequel to that one and, to a certain extent, Boyhood as well. Everybody Wants Some!! opens with a new freshman driving to off to college for the first time, literally the last scene of Boyhood. And although our hero this time around, Jake (Blake Jenner), is a baseball player and much more of a jock than Mason (Ellar Coltrane) of Boyhood, they share a mild temperament and philosophical introspection that lets at least this viewer know that this is the Richard Linklater of our story.
Jake pulls up to a huge house that looks like a classic fraternity or sorority. We learn that it isn’t precisely either, but a baseball house that the university has granted the team so they can focus on their sport and reside together. This is obviously a major oversight on the part of the university which these boys intend to exploit to the highest degree by throwing the biggest, loudest, and most obscene parties possible.
From the look of the car Jake pulls up in, his hair, his tight clothes, and the music he brings with him (in the form of a vinyl collection), it is clear that this movie takes place in the 1980s. And that is where Everybody Wants Some!! is a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused. In that one we saw high school in the 1970s, in this one we get college in the 1980s. And in both films, our protagonist is a mild-mannered baseball prodigy freshman. These films are also linked in that they both take place in a limited time frame. Dazed and Confused takes place on the last day of school, when the young heroes transition from middle school to high school. Everybody Wants Some!! takes place during the seventy-two hours before the start of the first class of the year. The end of the film is that very class.
Although I enjoyed the film’s original working title That’s What I’m Talking About a lot more, I must admit that Everybody Wants Some!! is better suited to the subject matter which almost exclusively involves college men in pursuit of college women. This movie is about baseball and getting laid. And mostly just getting laid. This is why I don’t normally go for college sex comedies. This doesn’t sound like a premise with much potential for characters I can relate to or care about, situations at all reflective of my own life, or any meaningful philosophical insight. But here I am to report that this film very specifically contains all three of those elements.
Although Jake is our main character and he appears in almost every frame, this is very much an ensemble piece. And it is one of the best, most colorful casts of characters I have seen in years. The entire team is memorable, quirky, and larger-than-life without ever becoming caricatures. They are hilariously eccentric and each has distinct characteristics and a personality that we gradually become familiar with, just like our protagonist. These characters don’t feel like one-trick ponies with only one exaggerated feature or aspect to their arc. They feel like real people with real feelings (and urges) that are understandable even when they are regrettable.
For example, one of the new pitchers is incredibly arrogant when it comes to his skill as a baseball player. He has to learn, as many of them do, that where you were the star of your team in high school, you are barely on the team as a freshman in college. He has no social skills at all, so he plays up the one area he is successful. There is a moment early on when we see him snap for next to no reason in a bar. It is kind of painful to watch as you laugh at his disastrous situation. But it is also kind of touching because we understand his need to prove himself and feel bad for how poorly he chooses to go about it.
The film is one sequence after another full of but-gusting laughter. In many ways, the scenarios Linklater has developed here land even better than they did in Dazed and Confused. But then again he’s had an extra twenty years to ponder and prepare this project. I don’t want to spoil any of the gags for you. But I will say that several impressed me in how long they run. A great example of this is an early scene of five players rapping in a car.
We’ve seen a lot of scenes in movies where characters enthusiastically sing along to whatever is on the stereo. This one, like the now famous rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in Wayne’s World is not about just creating the feel of the situation, it is about letting the characters really perform the song. They go almost all the way through it, with each taking a solo verse. Scenes like this, and many others are funny at first, then feel like they peak and go on too long, and then stick around long enough to reveal they had even more up their sleeve than you thought. I saw the film two days ago and I cannot recall any scenes that I thought didn’t land perfectly. The thing just flies by without hitting a single hiccup.
The one sequence I feel obligated to divulge is a mud wrestling scene because it plays out in the movie exactly as it did in my life. I walked into Boyhood expecting to see my life reflected in many ways, and it was. I did not anticipate seeing anything so literally out of my life in Everybody Wants Some!! But this sequence was almost more uncanny than anything I’ve ever seen in a film. Essentially, what makes the scene unique is it is a male-female mud wrestle, which is unusual by itself. Add to that that the male lets the female win for entertainment value as I did in real life and this starts to feel a little eerie. It’s also worth mentioning that I kind of look like the guy in the scene and the girl I mud wrestled looked a lot like the girl in the film. And finally, both the girl in the film and in my life are theater majors. How Linklater so regularly captures such specific moments as these out of real life, I will never understand.
Amidst the countless looney hijinks the team pulls in their efforts to pursue pussy, there are quiet moments of introspection that lend real insight to what it is like to arrive at college for the first time, what it’s like to be on a sports team, and what it is like to discover who you are at that age. In an early scene Jake pontificates that every single thing that happens in the baseball house is a competition. No matter how arbitrary or even self-destructive and stupid the competition may be, these guys become determined to win. This is at first seen as a negative trait. But this is what makes them a championship team.
There is another moment in which Jake reflects that in the three days before school he finds himself dancing at a disco bar, a country/honky tonk joint, and a punk show. This is seen as not dishonesty, so much as adaptation to circumstance. But I also see it as something else: an exposure of how we all enter college as still blank slates to a certain extent. Jake has yet to really choose his identity.
And finally, very late in the film, there is a phone call in which a male and female character set up their first date. This is one of those conversations that a normal film wouldn’t depict in its entirety. But Linklater lets it play out. It’s awkward, beautiful, both characters stumble, but it still goes well. This is an incredible scene, one of the best Linklater has ever written and one of the most true to 19-year old relationships I have ever seen.
So there you have it. I do not like college sex comedies. I can’t think of one I have enjoyed since Animal House, which was released before I was born. But since I know not to judge films for genre, but by who is responsible for them, I know not to see Everybody Wants Some!! as a college sex film, but a Richard Linklater film. And I will always see one of those, no matter what it is about.