'Everybody Wants Some': SXSW Review

Another gem from one of America's best.
4/1/2016

More than two decades after his classic high-school film 'Dazed and Confused,' Richard Linklater goes to college in this comedy that premiered at SXSW.

By the standards of Hollywood, where the word usually means "the same thing again, with a roman numeral after the title," Richard Linklater's Everybody Wants Some is hardly a "sequel" to his 1993 teen-comedy classic Dazed and Confused.

That's not only because the two films share no common characters, but because, while both observe school-daze milestones, they're such different animals. This deft and lovely new film discards the first's omniscient point-of-view, which sympathized with freaks and geeks and the in-crowd simultaneously, in favor of a very specific perspective: watching an incoming freshman spend his first few days with the college baseball players who'll constitute his family for the rest of the year. Inevitable Brohood jokes will actually be fair, as the film is one hundred percent concerned with navigating a sea of testosterone — watching a (mostly) pure soul as he tries to win the approval of sometimes lunkheaded peers without betraying his more thoughtful side.

More a hang-out movie than a yukfest, the film doesn't try to be all things to all people (its title notwithstanding) and will leave many Boyhood admirers, and even some in the D&C cult, puzzled. But it's as honest and clear-eyed about the past as its predecessor, another in a filmography of unpredictable gems. It may be most like Dazed in that the public could take a while to appreciate it for what it is.

It's August of 1980, three days before the fall semester starts at a small Texas college. Jake (Blake Jenner), a fresh-faced pitcher who clearly was a star in his little hometown, parks his Oldsmobile 442 in front of the two houses used as ramshackle dorms by the baseball team. Inside, the first two upperclassmen he meets will barely shake his hand. "I hate pitchers," boasts McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), a mustachioed stud with enough confidence to make him alpha male in a house of alphas.

That's as icy as things get, though. As Jake meets other residents, he finds an atmosphere of easygoing mockery in which even the most ridiculed housemates have little to fear beyond an unwanted nickname. (With the exception of one scare-comic ritual teased in its trailer, the pic offers nothing like the cruel hazing seen in modern fraternities.) It's a colorful and diverse group, but while nearly every actor has a chance early on to make an impression, one is especially charismatic: As a pipe-smoking, Kerouac-reading joker given to wryly grandiloquent language and anthropological observations, Glen Powell enlivens every scene he's in.

Powell's Finnegan provides the self-aware humor the picture hopes will keep us from being too offended by the boys' boorishness in pursuit of sex. Finn does damage control after a crude pickup attempt by pretending to deconstruct his friends' predatory vibe; he tries to get women into bed with feigned modesty about his genitals; he coaxes strangers into mud-wrestling for others' pleasure as if he were offering them a chance to check something off their bucket lists.

Everybody Wants Some is as horny as its title, following these dudes to a disco one night, an Urban Cowboy bar the next, and a punk club after that; they'll try on any persona they think might get them laid. This isn't phony, according to Finn: It's adaptive. Some will wish the movie didn't seem so sympathetic to the shallow way its characters talk about women. But it does offer a light at the end of this dark us-versus-them tunnel: Soon Jake meets a girl who rates more than a line or two of dialogue (Zoey Deutch's Beverly), and both he and the film care about what she has on her mind. Now, if only he can continue getting to know her without having the rest of the team make him look bad.

Occasional time stamps remind us we're getting closer to the start of classes, but this film doesn't conjure the illusion that we're moving through real time with its characters the way Slacker, Dazed and the Before films do. The density of its getting-to-know-you material is true to those first few days on campus, with their accelerated bonding and opportunities for self-definition. But if the occasional references to the team's upcoming first practice were removed, this could almost be the story of Jake's first semester, not of three crucial days.

Director of photography Shane Kelly doesn't try to pretty-up the period-correct tackiness of the production and costume design; even with the variety introduced by its ever-changing nightlife scenes, the movie offers little pleasure for the eye until near the end, when the fellas find themselves at a party thrown by the campus's performing-arts crowd. Musically, Linklater can't be true to what these students listen to without giving us songs we've heard a million times — from the opening bass line of "My Sharona" to the Cars' "Good Times Roll." But he does find an unexpected pleasure or two, especially as these not-so-fly guys try their hand at that fad they don't realize is never going to fade — hip-hop.

Venue: South By Southwest Film Festival (Headliners)
Distributor: Paramount
Production company: Detour Filmproduction
Cast: Will Brittain, Zoey Deutch, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Blake Jenner, J. Quinton Johnson, Glen Powell, Wyatt Russell
Director-screenwriter: Richard Linklater
Producers: Megan Ellison, Richard Linklater, Ginger Sledge
Executive producers: Sean Daniel, Stephen Feder, John Sloss
Director of photography: Shane F. Kelly
Production designer: Bruce Curtis
Costume designer: Kari Perkins
Editor: Sandra Adair
Casting directors: Justine Baddeley, Vicky Boone, Kim Davis-Wagner

Rated R, 116 minutes

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