The opening shot of the latest Richard Linklater (Boyhood) nostalgia tale, Everybody Wants Some!!, has the audience bopping their heads to the 1979 pop hit My Sharona like it hit the airwaves just yesterday. Likewise, the same can be said for the rest of the film. It is one of those rare movies that fully immerses you into its time and place, making you feel as though you yourself are starting your freshman year of college in the early ‘80s. I left this film feeling a bit high, hungover, and vicariously cooler for just watching it. While Linklater doesn’t necessarily add anything groundbreaking or new to this Dazed and Confused-inspired nostalgic college party, he does do it a great service and hits the right mark on every level of filmmaking.
The story, written by Linklater, follows Jake, an incoming college freshman and baseball player as he and his new team dive deep into the freedom, debauchery, and all-around fun during their first weekend of college. They take the audience on a cultural ride through young adulthood of the early 1980s, starting at the jock house, moving through the disco, to the recently popularized hoedown, passing by the punk scene, and finishing at the still psychedelic art crowd, with the only constants being boozed up and smoked out parties rife with plenty of genre-appropriate dick jokes. The actual playing of baseball happens just once in the movie, which happens to be only their first practice about an hour and a half into the runtime. But it is clear early on that this isn’t a baseball movie – it is a love letter to college, and the ‘80s, and college in the ‘80s.
Blake Jenner, a relative newcomer after his breakout on Glee, plays the starring role, and gives his character as about the perfect amount of freshness, wide-eyed purity, and underlying cool as you could expect. His teammates are played by a slew of who’s-who of still on-the-rise actors like Tyler Hoechlin (TV’s Teen Wolf), Ryan Guzman (The Boy Next Door), Glenn Powell (TV’s Scream Queens), and Wyatt Russell (22 Jump Street), accompanied by newcomers J. Quinton Johnson (soon-to-be-seen in the Dirty Dancing TV remake), and Temple Baker. All these actors manage to stand out in their own ways artistically and comedically, making you swear you’ve known each of them at some point in your life.
One actor, or actress, however, stands out among the rest. Zoey Deutch, who plays Beverly, Jake’s intelligent, performing arts-major love interest, brings such an unexpected charisma and unique flavor to her role in a truly special way. Interestingly enough, Deutch got her start on Disney Channel’s The Suite Life on Deck and has since appeared in Beautiful Creatures, Vampire Academy, and as Zac Efron’s latest love interest in Dirty Grandpa. If her undoubtedly charming take on the dorky-cute thespian is any indication, we will surely be seeing a lot more from her in the future. It is just a shame that her character’s story barely begins until about an hour into the film.
Besides an incredible soundtrack that will have you questioning why you ever listen to any music not recorded in 1979, Everybody Wants Some!!’s finest attribute is its writing, specifically its comedy. There were countless opportunities for Linklater to saturate the film with over-the-top dick jokes, wanton homoeroticism (which is almost a requirement with the fine combination of an athletic team and male short-shorts), and a general singular view of the time period. He succeeds, however, in reining all of this in, sprinkling in plenty of moments of true wit, cannabis-philosophy, and a smidge of innocence in his smartly concocted melting pot of university-life. Also, much like his award-winning passion project of 2014, Boyhood, Linklater pays tribute to another era while maintaining a sense of timelessness throughout. The ideas, situations, and jokes are universal, adding to the film’s ability to transport its audience.
Additionally, the look and feel of the film effortlessly mirrors its subjects. Linklater made his creative team a family affair, bringing back much of his crew from Boyhood. He and cinematographer Shane F. Kelly take the audience right into the party and lock us in that mindset until the final moments. Kari Perkins, the costume designer, was tasked with what is ultimately the linchpin to the entire film – the wardrobe. Her expertly crafted fashion reflects the changing decades while diverting away from the fact that these are in fact costumes. Within that is the film’s silent victory – its unfailing authenticity.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Everybody Wants Some!! is more or less the definition of a good time. At certain points, the testosterone levels seem to reach their peak, and there are a couple moments in which the storytelling begins to run out of steam, but Linklater grabs you around every bend. You’ll feel nostalgia for a time period you may have never known, and if you did know it first hand, you’ll feel it all the more. Linklater once again has made a film that follows the advice of “write what you know,” which ultimately gives the final product its truth and makes the audience feel as though we had just as much fun watching it as he did making it.