Following up his rapturously received Boyhood was never going to be a simple task for Richard Linklater, but with Everybody Wants Some, he returns to the ensemble coming of age genre that he made his name with in 1993 with Dazed and Confused. After two serious and masterful looks at normal human life (Boyhood and Before Midnight), Linklater proves that he’s lost none of his flair for comedy in a very funny and very charming look at the bizarre rules and rituals of male friendship. Focusing in on a group of baseball scholarship students at the start of their 1980 college year, Everybody Wants Some develops plenty of likable, well-drawn characters that pull further and further away from typical stereotypes the more time you spend with them.
Although this entry into Linklater’s canon has most in common with Dazed and Confused, it also acts as a sequel of sorts to Boyhood. With Boyhood ending just as Mason moves into college, Everybody Wants Some focuses on the Friday night and weekend before the start of actual classes. It’s a true ensemble piece, with at least two characters on screen in almost every frame, but if you had to pick a lead, it would be new student and late arrival to the baseball house Jake (Blake Jenner).
The second he arrives at his new home, he’s faced with macho hostility and idiot schemes, but it takes less than an afternoon for him to bond with his housemates. One disco trip and drunken house party later and they’re firm friends. There’s very little plot to speak of, and this looseness in the story perfectly captures the aimlessness of the tail end of the summer. Linklater also does an amazing job of capturing the constant identity changes brought about by the first few days of university – the boys are consistently united by their baseball team, but flit from disco-goers to cowboys to punks in search of a good time before they have to start ‘real life’.
There are occasional pacing dips, but for the most part you feel as if you are floating through the weekend with the characters. A mellow but exciting energy courses through the whole film, and the ‘80s vibe is so excellently realised, from the production design to the facial hair, that leaving the world of Everybody Wants Some is rather difficult. Even the sunlight invites you in – in keeping with the idealised summer memories tone, there isn’t even a hint of bad weather. On top of all this technical excellence, Linklater’s script keeps the gentle laughs coming throughout the length of the film. It’s not as raucously funny as this year’s other top comedies like Hail Caesar and The Nice Guys, but there’s a bit more warmth behind the comedy here; you’re mainly laughing with, not at, the characters.
Relative unknowns make up the cast, and not only do they all do great jobs (Glen Powell and Juston Street make particularly strong impressions as a philosophical ladies’ man and an over-competitive lunatic respectively), the lack of star power adds the necessary authenticity to this college life tale. A couple of supporting players get lost in the shuffle, but a cast this big having as many memorable members as it does is a grand achievement. It might be too testosterone-fuelled for some, but this leisurely look at 80s youth and male bonding is a relaxing treat for anyone who wants to look fondly back at the ending of their last school summer.