The truth is that as a film journalist I'm always tasked with finding new and interesting ways to offer both a critical opinion of a film and, when it comes down to it, a hopefully entertaining and informative accounting of my own experience watching a film.
Sometimes, I have to be honest, words just completely seem to fail me.
It's times like these that I can't decide if I'm a film journalist or a movie geek or a devotee or maybe I just have a limited vocabulary. Whatever the reason, the simple truth is that I can think of only one word to describe Richard Linklater's new film Everybody Wants Some!! - that word is masterpiece.
I mean, god, isn't that awful?
There's truly not another word that I can think of that says it for me like that almost clichéd descriptor that is so often used yet so very seldom accurate. Now then, here's the thing - I don't want to falsely build up Everybody Wants Some!!, a film that continues Linklater's long-standing reputation as one of this generation's most profound filmmakers of the seemingly mundane yet deeply meaningful human experience. Linklater has been making such films, across genres, since 1993's Dazed & Confused and through such films as Waking Life, the Before films and, of course, Boyhood.
There will be some who will consider Everybody Wants Some!! to be a vastly lesser film than Linklater's Oscar-nominated Boyhood, though I'd beg to differ. While I'm not sure I'd consider it to be a greater film, Everybody Wants Some!! is, at the very minimum, on par with that film and, at least for this film writer, is an even more entertaining and fully immersive cinematic experience.
The truth is that I loved every single one of Everybody Wants Some!!'s 117 minutes. When we arrived at the end of the film, with the exception of a closing credit Easter egg that is worthy of your attention, I find myself having two distinct reactions - 1) I was completely stunned that 117 minutes had flown by so quickly and 2) I was ready to spend more time with Jake Bradford (Blake Jenner), Billy Autrey (Will Brittain), Jay Niles (Juston Street), Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), Glenn (Tyler Hoechlin), Finnegan (Glen Powell), Beverly (Zoey Deutch) and the rest of Linklater's stellar ensemble cast.
The modestly budgeted Everybody Wants Some!!, with a production budget said to be around the $10 million mark, was a hard-to-sell film even for a filmmaker known for hard to sell films and even after Linklater's successful awards season with Boyhood. It didn't help that Linklater refused studio suggestions to cast Dazed & Confused's Matthew McConaughey as the coach here, and it wasn't until producer Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures stepped in and supported Linklater's vision that the film finally came to life. Bravo to Linklater and Ellison for standing their ground, because a well known name amidst this top notch cast of talented yet largely unknown performers would have been nothing more than a novelty and distraction.
If there's one thing we've learned about Linklater, it's that he's not exactly the kind of filmmaker who tosses in unnecessary distractions.
It is impossible to watch Everybody Wants Some!! without reflecting upon the quiet and understated brilliance of Dazed & Confused. In this film, Jake Bradford is a Second Team All-American pitcher arriving for his first day on the campus of Southeast Texas University, a baseball powerhouse where he's to be housed in one of the baseball houses, a benefit of being part of one of the winningest teams on campus. While Dazed & Confused was largely about a journey, Everybody Wants Some!! is, when it comes down to it, much more about that moment - when, as human beings, we transition from childhood to adulthood or at least something resembling adulthood.
You can feel it happening in Linklater's seemingly ordinary yet precise dialogue that isn't so much concerned about plot as it is concerned with who these young men are and how their behavior is a great revealer of who they are to become. Everybody Wants Some!! is a much smarter film than you might imagine considering that the foundation of the film appears to be the simple fact that everybody does actually want to get some.
If I need to explain this to you, then you're probably not ready to hear it.
I love how Linklater paints out the roles in the film, sometimes dancing closely to what we might call a caricature yet here feeling more like we're dancing on the holy ground of humanity. Every character here is shaded, even the more outrageous ones, and it's a true joy watching Jake, probably the film's central and driving force, as he drives on campus three days before the first day of class with an ever so slight air of conceit that gives way to something almost joyfully sweet and authentic and honest. Jenner, who is not related to the Jenners you're thinking about, is a veteran of television's Glee and embodies Jake as a fine specimen of masculinity yet one with just the right depth of soulfulness. He is equally believable as a star baseball player and as the kind of guy who really would write about the the myth of Sisyphus.
Linklater has always been good at casting his films, yet I'd be hard-pressed to name a film that's as beautifully cast as Everybody Wants Some!!, especially when you consider that the most known names here are almost exclusively known for their indie work. It's reasonable to think that Everybody Wants Some!! is going to be about baseball or about a group of college jocks doing whatever they can to get some and, yeah, we get our fair share of horny jocks and college parties.
Yet, there's so much more. The film is set in 1980 and it captures that era beautifully from the film's killer early 80's soundtrack to Shane F. Kelly's wonderfully immersive lensing and Bruce Curtis's lived in, comfortable and incredibly familiar production design. Wyatt Russell, as philosophical stoner Willoughby, would almost be right at home in Animal House yet he's truly sublime here as a transfer student with a little more baggage than everyone realizes. Juston Street could have so easily turned the team's weirdo, Jay Niles, into a twisted cliché but instead he becomes one of the most quietly yet meaningfully transformed of the young men. Billy Autrey, the team's rather innocent Southern boy, is captured beautifully by Will Brittain, while Glen Powell gives a highlight performance as Finn, a resident hedonist yet, once again, one that avoids familiar stereotypes and possesses a wonderfully philosophical bent. Zoey Deutch, the daughter of actress Lea Thompson and director Howard Deutch, gives the film much of its emotional resonance as the delightful Beverly, a theater nerd who seemingly understands athletics even if she doesn't exactly embrace athletics. As Nesbit, Austin Amelio (Dwight on television's The Walking Dead) keeps everyone from ever taking themselves too seriously.
This is a large ensemble cast. I could go on and on.
While on the surface Everybody Wants Some!! is a seemingly simple story that may or may not actually follow a plot line, the truth is that Linklater fills the film with such age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate kernels of insight and wisdom that I found myself reflecting back to my early college days and that moment when I realized I wasn't a child anymore and going back wasn't really a viable option. From painfully funny lessons about penis size to experimentation with bongs and that wonderful way we all had of going to college and trying on different roles, sometimes in the same night, trying to figure out who we were and where we fit in and where we were going.
Sigh. I loved this film.
That's really the point. You know? I mean, it feels weird to paint a film like Everybody Wants Some!! as a masterpiece, because it's not a Schindler's List or a Casablanca or whatever. It's just not. You can't really go into it expecting it to be brilliant, because then I'm pretty sure you're going to be disappointed. Instead, just act like it's your first day and the movie theater is your campus. You've shown up. You're ready. You don't know what to expect, but you're pretty much prepared for anything. Then, just let go. Two hours later? You'll understand what I mean.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic