As enjoyable as moments in Richard Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some” are — and there are plenty in this very well-acted, well-shot, elegantly edited comedy — how you feel about it by the end might revolve around how you feel about spending nearly two hours with guys who may or may not have beaten you up in high school.
Linklater may be one of the most beloved American filmmakers of the age, but the dude did play baseball at Sam Houston State and at its core, “Everybody Wants Some” is, in fact, a film about jocks (charming as they can be).
One of the truly great things about “Dazed and Confused,” to which “Everybody” has been called a “spiritual sequel” was the array of voices and types: guys and girls thrown together in a public school. In “Everybody,” the self-segregation that comes with college (especially with college sports) has already begun. Which is to say, you are forgiven if you have trouble telling all of these white guys with terrible haircuts and mustaches apart. (And, real talk, a movie that opens with “My Sharona” is, by its very nature, going to be less awesome than a movie that starts with “Sweet Emotion.” That is just science.)
It is three days before school starts at an unnamed Texas college in mid-August, 1980. Jake (Blake Jenner and his shoulders) is an incoming freshman pitcher who moves into the baseball house, where most of the team lives. The other players are, generally not impressed — Jake may have been a high school star, but this is college ball. There’s McReynolds the power hitter (Tyler Hoechlin, rocking a ‘stache worth of Billy Crudup in “Almost Famous), Finn (Glen Powell, never better), Dale (J. Quinton Johnson), and Roper (Ryan Guzman). Linklater’s eye for baseball detail is good (and actually a little underused here). All the pitchers are strange in different ways. Indeed, Willoughby (a terrific Wyatt Russell in full not-quite-Owen Wilson mode), the sage stoner, actually encourages Jake to find his inner weird. Niles (Juston Street) is the over-competitive lunatic.
If anything, “Everybody” probably could have used a little more baseball and I don’t just say this as a fan of the game. Honestly, had there actually been a little more baseball, it could have become a truly great movie about the game at small colleges. (Which is to say, there is still room for that movie to be made!)
The movie, which is material to which Linklater is very close, ends up being more of arambling hangout film than a baseball movie. The rambling part is vintage Linklater, executed with his rhythms and drift intact. The boys go from party to over-competitive ping-pong game to keg stand.
Women are pretty well non-existent here except as that which is hit on (even in a 1980 setting, using “feminist” and “lesbian” as punchlines seems unnecessary), save for Jake’s increasingly earnest relationship with Beverly (Zoey Deutch), a theater and dance major. (Fittingly, a party at the theater house called Oz is the movie’s most elaborate set-piece.
Perhaps there is more critique in here than I am giving “Everybody” credit for. Or maybe Linklater is a little too close to his baseball memories to allow for it (this is also known as “Season Five of ‘the Wire’ Disease”).
We see the boys try on various identities — disco, kicker Western bar, punk club with band played by the Riverboat Gamblers — which is of course a metaphor for the searching that comes in college’s early days. And yes, these jocks are a bit more charming than the ones you might recall. But “Everybody Wants Some” is still a movies about jocks aged 18-21 and we never, ever leave their side.