Coming off of his massive critical and award-winning success of Boyhood, writer/director Richard Linklater returns to the vibes of his beloved cult classic Dazed and Confused with his latest film Everybody Wants Some!! Set over the weekend before the start of college, Linklater follows the freshman inductees and upperclassmen antiheroes of a baseball team as they party and hunt for sexual conquests. True to Linklater’s form, it’s a dialogue-driven enterprise that’s character-focused and purely watchable.
However, even with his rich character depictions and natural conversations unfolding with his usual expect touch, that watchability is tainted with quite unsavory machismo.
The brusque, bro-y maleness it has on display is decidedly un-politically correct and amused with itself, almost relentlessly so. There’s ample frank dialogue that’s free with the use of female diminishing expletives and the only pursuits driving its male clan is the thirst for more sexual conquests and dominance over one another. Though some may find the film’s rambling dialogue a slog, the real tough sit is the barrage of nasty assertion of maleness. Unaccustomed to the kind of private company of men featured in the film, I had to ask myself “Is this really how men talk to one another when no one is listening?”
But Everybody is not without perspective or judgment regarding the characters’ actions. Without feeling like a tacked on bit of audience servicing, the film’s themes finally come to cohesion around the final half hour when the guys begin to express passions outside of booze, babes, and balls.
The film moreso presents these behaviors as something to be grown out of rather than admonished for their destructiveness to both men and women. It’s hard to tell if Everybody Wants Some!! is coming along at the wrong time or exactly the right time with the conversations being had about male and female representations on film. This film doesn’t so much have a woman problem (all the women are fully aware that these guys are idiots) as it does have a man problem of accepting boorish behavior as charming.
But the slippery thing is that the film is quite charming. Even if the aww-shucks angle he takes on his characters’ crassness never jives with the humanistic approach he approaches them, but each is uniquely drawn and memorable. Linklater’s dialogue flows as freely as you would expect from his work, even here working with largely inexperienced young actors. The “spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused” selling tool is easy to forget while viewing Everything because the connective tissue between the two hardly exists. What makes the connection apt is the exact lax episodic tone and the exciting breakthrough cast. Like the cast of Dazed, you can rest assured you’ll be seeing a lot more from this cast in the future.
Much of the film’s pallatability must be credited to this very winning cast, each of which give enough nuance to keep us entertained and curious through the poon-chasing. Chief among them is Glen Powell as the kinder of the upperclassmen teammates, the one motivated to meet girls “on their level”. You can imagine his performance here being remembered similarly as Matthew McConaughey’s Dazed and Confused performance, though Powell is featured far more significantly. He’s the wittiest and sharpest piece of the ensemble, but they all seem to circle his orbit.
We may not need another film about (especially pre-middle aged) male maturation, but at least this one has Linklater’s sensitivity and sensibility to make it worthwhile. Linklater is not one to forcefeed a narrative to an audience, let alone an agenda – Everything expects the audience to get those subtle threads that these manchildren are misguiding themselves. While there will be fans of the film that Linklater has overestimated the maturity of, he has made a film as solidly constructed as anything in his filmography. If nothing else, he’s given us a sunny and optimistic film in a spring filled with grim ones.