Rated R for sexuality, nudity, language, drunkenness, and drugs. It's a B- raunchy movie. It's not the most offensive thing you'll ever see, but it does glorify the vices of the college scene pretty hard. Also, the obsession with sex is pretty immature throughout the film. Guys treat each other fairly terribly and there's talk of some really depressing material in a light-hearted tone. It's well-deserving of its R rating.
DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater
Shhh! I have a bit of a secret. I've been citing this movie without having seen it for a lot of movies. It's always in that lumped together Richard Linklater Dazed & Confused genre of film. I've been talking about these kinds of movies as the ultimate nostalgia machines. I'm not wrong. At least, I don't think that I'm wrong. But I wanted to watch this movie for a while. Despite the fact that I've written long diatribe about the nostalgia movie, I kinda/sorta enjoy them. They aren't amazing movies to me, mainly because they rely to heavily on an individual nostalgia that isn't necessarily universal. But at least Everybody Wants Some!! offers something besides the traditional nostalgia.
For being a movie about baseball and college, there's very little of actual baseball or actual college in this movie. I'm not exactly minding the lack of baseball. They talk about baseball all the time, but rarely actually play or practice. It's part of the conceit of the film and is more of a commentary on the competitive nature of the alpha male. It's slightly toxic, but it also feels pretty darned honest at the same time. Considering that one of the motifs running through the film is the male need to be competitive, I get that they're going to talk about baseball a whole bunch. The lack of actual classes in the movie actually makes a bit of sense as well. The film surrounds a countdown for the first class, giving a really interesting frame of reference for how jam packed this opening weekend actually is.
The thing that really separates me from really embracing anything universal in this film is that it really speaks to a demographic that I have nothing in common with. My senior year of college, I told my parents that I wanted to go up to my apartment at school a week early because I wanted to work on my thesis. This was not true. (I'm actually confessing something real, yet minor, right now.) Instead, I ate a bunch of Chinese food from the best Chinese takeout place that I've ever eaten and binged a season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the entire series of Firefly. I grew into a pretty dark depression for how little I actually moved in that room. My couch got a nice Tim-shaped-lump in it and I didn't move. It was great / terrible. But the concept of pre-semester fun is very specific in Everybody Wants Some!!. There's an understanding that everyone in college is there to party.
I like Linklater...kind of. There are times here I get behind everything he does and I namedrop him in intellectual debates. But there are also these moments where he just comes across as so bro-ey that I can't even slightly relate to him. Linklater is always known for his honesty with character. He creates these flawed individuals who mimic the dialogue that the witty have in his films. But there's slightly something off between Dazed & Confused and Everybody Wants Some!!. These characters are archetypes. Jake serves as the avatar for the audience. As the freshman, Jake communicates of being outside the comfort zone of the film. Because Jake doesn't know what he's getting into, we also have to follow the examples of the veterans. But the veterans aren't exactly nuanced. Rather, they are all fulfilling a role.
Finnegan is the pseudo-intellectual and comic relief. Always the one who communicates the message of the scene, Finnegan is criminally self-aware. He never breaks the fourth wall, but he mind as well be. McReynolds is the loose cannon, toxic alpha. It's weird for me because I only see him as Superman now. You can go down the list. Probably the most criminal example of archetype as opposed to something real is Jay. Honestly, I think that Juston Street was channeling Michael Showalter for the majority of the film. He felt like more of a character from The State than he did a real person.
But the movie actually can break down into some interesting ideas. Jake, as a protagonist, is sympathetic mainly because the rest of the cast is wildly unsympathetic. I think Linklater is doing this on purpose. The goal for this character is to find the girl who liked him. But Jake is quiet from the beginning of the film. He is the hesitant participant in their trip to the bar immediately upon arrival. When they run into Beverly, she only flirts with Jake because the other guys in the car are so aggressive. That's really a metaphor for the story. We consider Jake to be moral mainly because the other characters are immoral. But he's not actually a good guy. In terms of Jake's goals, he wants to find Beverly because he found her pretty and interesting. (I never said that it was going to be an impressive goal.) He looks for her room number and implies that this is the girl that he's going to date throughout his college career. Cool?
Too bad that, the same evening, Jake hooks up. Not accidentally. He doesn't meet a girl who is really into him and she makes the first move. No, he goes on the attack. When he goes to the disco, he goes with the express intention of hooking up. When they go back to the house with the girls, in direct violation of coach's rules, he gets frustrated at Beuter for stopping him from entering the room. Remember, this is our male protagonist. We want him to find Beverly. Now, Beverly and Jake are not together. Heck, they haven't even technically spoken. But his hookup with the girl in his car doesn't really deter him from chasing Beverly. Perhaps I'm overly moralizing, but Linklater is commenting on the fickleness of attraction and adolescence. Jake is handsome and charming. Compared to the mooks that he shares a house with, he's downright a saint. But he's actually not actually a good dude. Instead, he acts as a chameleon in every environment.
Linklater grasps onto the image of "chameleon" throughout the film as almost a commentary on the individual. There's something interesting going on with that discussion of blending in. Jake and Finnegan have a concrete discussion about the idea of shedding skins for one's personal gain. It's really interesting because it could take a far greater moral choice. But the movie is kind of about self-discovery. Listen, you want to tell a story about not knowing who you are. You plant the movie at a college where everyone is so desperate to determine what they are going to be for the rest of their lives. You put this white male, Jake, at the center of that. We know that he's a baseball player, but he's outside the troupe because he's a pitcher. He's both inside and out. He likes baseball, but he's not obsessed like McReynolds. He dates a girl who puts on masks and characters for a major. There's a guy in the group who is 30 but pretending to be 20. There's a lot of narrative cues about hiding oneself.
That's why I find the Justin interaction so cool. When the boys are forced to leave their comfort zone of the disco, they instantly adapt and shift to the Country Western joint. There's a nod to the fact that there is a hint of deception happening with this choice. But that choice is made clear when Justin, who has completely abandoned his personality as a baseball player. He adapts the garb of punk and invites Jake to join him. That conversation that Jake and Finnegan have is perhaps illuminating to the human need for identity. On one end, it could simply be read as the characters are liars, manipulating the truth to selfishly get what they want out of others. And you wouldn't be wrong with that analysis. But there's also the concept that identity is maleable. Jake seems to be honestly enjoying himself at the punk show, especially when the Gilligan's Island theme is played. The same attitude can be seen at the theater party. Rather than seeing himself as better than others, he simply adapts to each situation. It's why Jay comes across as so icky, because he's obsessed with his own identity.
It's actually a pretty decent movie, just not one that resonates on every level. I'm glad that I've seen it so I can officially start doubling-down on my arguments.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.