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Everybody Wants Some!!
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by Peter Sobczynski

"More Than All Right, All Right"
5 stars

“Everybody Wants Some!!,” the latest work from acclaimed filmmaker Richard Linklater, has been described in many circles as a “spiritual sequel” to his 1993 cult classic “Dazed and Confused.” What this means is that the film contains no obvious links to that earlier effort—there are no continuing characters or plot threads and none of the future superstars that got big early breaks there (including Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey, to name a few) turn up here—but it further explores some of the themes and ideas that Linklater included into the mix that transformed that film from the pot-fueled Seventies nostalgia fest into one of the smartest and most perceptive movie about American adolescence ever made. This may temporarily discombobulate viewers who have been led to believe that it is a conventional follow-up but I suspect that whatever minor disappointment they may feel in this regard will quickly be forgotten when they realize that instead of giving them a straight sequel to a great film, he has gone ahead and just made another great film—an utterly delightful work that is cheerfully raunchy, surprisingly soulful and another sterling entry from one of the reliably impressive American directors working today.

“Dazed and Confused,” you will recall, took place over a 18-hour period on the last day of school in a Texas town in 1976 and observed the behaviors of a wide series of kids—jocks, stoners, brains, brats and those yet to find their particular niche—over the course of the day and night as they goofed off, flirted, got high, took the occasional stand and set off on their own uncertain futures (symbolized by a final shot that somehow managed to be both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. This time around, the year is 1980 and the place is Southeast Texas State University just before the commencement of the fall term. Our guide this time is Jake (Blake Jenner), an amiably goofy freshman who was the star pitcher on his high school baseball team and who has been recruited to play on the school’s highly regarded squad and live off-campus with his fellow teammates. That said, he doesn’t exactly come across as the typical jock as exemplified by the majority of his teammates—not only does he lack the large mustaches and hyper-aggressive attitude cultivated by most of them, the inclusion of Devo’s first album in his record collection suggests that he contains, if not multitudes, then at least a willingness to embrace a certain degree of freakiness.

Over the course of the course of the next 3 days or so, we follow Jake as he begins to dip his toe into the college experience. He gets to know his fellow teammates—ranging from alpha male McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) to weirdo Jay (Juston Street) to philosophical pothead transfer Willoughby (Wyatt Russell)—and begins to grasp both the rarefied position he holds on campus already thanks to his position on the baseball team and the fact that while he may have been the ace of his high school team, he is now just another guy whose playing career is likely to end as soon as he graduates. Off the field, he and his teammates cruise the campus, using their positions to pass freely through the various social sects. One night, they hit a disco and bask in its polyester glories, another finds them at a country & western bar and, of course, there are parties at their own residence in which the rules laid down by their coach (the only adult authority seen in the film) restricting the presence of booze, drugs and women are strictly ignored. Thanks to the presence of newcomer Jake, the others wind up expanding their horizons in unexpected ways. One night, a chance encounter with a former classmate of Jake’s who is part of the punk scene leads them all to a concert where the crowd is not particularly in awe of their presence. On another, Jake’s low-key flirtation with a pretty drama student (Zooey Deutch) leads them all to a drama club party that, for all of its goofball pretensions, opens their eye to an entirely different world outside of their jockacracy.

As you can probably sense, narrative drive is not exactly Linklater’s highest concern here (as has been the case with the vast majority of his films)—indeed, the closest the film gets to a moment of true dramatic import comes when one of Jake’s teammates is removed when he turns out to be not quite what he seems. Instead, he is content to hang back and observe a group of characters who know that they are sitting on the top of their particular social strata and who are content to wallow in the pleasures and privileges conferred by their position. And yet, while the film does start out as being the chronicle of a bunch of jocks screwing around, it eventually develops into a thoughtful observation of how a group of disparate individuals begin to form themselves into a team. At the same time, it also quietly illustrates how college can be more than just a place to get a diploma after four years—it can be a place that allows people to figure out who they are. As Jake goes through his various experiences over the course of the three days, his eyes are opened to the world in ways that may well prove to be far more beneficial in the long run than his college career as a jock. Linklater himself is a prime example of this—he too was a jock in school until he discovered film and his true path.

Thanks to these developments, “Everybody Wants Some!!” proves to be far more meaningful than the raucous comedy filled with distressingly short shorts and and a killer period soundtrack promised by the commercials. That said, the film is also a lot of fun and perhaps the most sheerly entertaining film that Linklater has made in a while. It looks like a dream with an extensively detailed period design that truly roots the story in a particular time and place instead of just going for cheap laughs. The performances from the largely unknown cast are impressive across the board—even Zooey Deutch, an actress whose previous screen appearances have been about as appealing as the notion of Greta Gerwig scratching her nails on a blackboard, is pretty winning here as the central female—and they all get moments that show moments of genuine depth and nuance beyond their brash exteriors. (I wouldn’t be surprised to see this film serve as the springboard for a number of future careers in much the same way that “Dazed and Confused” did back in the day.) Controlling it all with deceptive ease, Linklater pulls off the impressive trick of telling a story that is actually far more focused than its deliberately lackadaisical pacing and attitude might suggest. The movie lasts about two hours and is not exactly what one might consider to be rapidly paced but if there is a wasted moment to be had in it, I don’t recall it.

Some viewers may raise complaints about the fact that Linklater has not really given women a voice this time around—aside from the Zooey Deutch character, they are primarily seen as babes to be ogled and little more—and that he does not explicitly condemn the hyper-masculine attitudes of the pre-bro culture he is examining. The lack of any real female representation is a bit disconcerting at first but since the focus of the film is on an entirely male-dominated culture in which women are given short shrift, I suppose it is understandable—besides, having demonstrated himself as an increasingly feminist-minded filmmaker in recent years (especially in such recent efforts as “Before Midnight” and “Boyhood”), I think that he deserves a pass this time around. As for the lack of overt criticism, I think it is actually to the film’s benefit that it doesn’t have an explicit lecture about the potential dangers of a testosterone-driven culture in which women are seen as little more than eager and willing playthings. By simply showing it, even in the relatively benign version depicted here, without underlining it, audiences, especially the younger ones, will likely be more taken aback by it than by having it all underlined for them.

These quibbles aside, “Everybody Wants Some!!” is a wonderful film that is both a dead-on evocation of a specific time and place and absolutely universal in the thoughts and emotions that it will inspire in viewers of all ages and era. You will notice that the film contains not one but two exclamation points in the title. Trust me—it more than earns both of them.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=29765&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/31/16 17:02:10
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 South by Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2016 South by Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

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4/06/16 tpruny USA 4 stars
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