The year is 1980 – a gallon of petrol costs 79 cents. The Empire Strikes Back makes the greatest parental reveal in film history, John Lennon is shot in New York City by a crazed Catcher in the Rye fan, and an actor beats a Southern peanut farmer to become President of the United States.
It is also the year that Jake (Blake Jenner) has his first year of college on a baseball scholarship. He arrives at his new college share house exactly three days and fifteen hours before class starts and, before he can even unpack, is on his way to the first of many drinking sessions. These three days and fifteen hours are the span of the film, as Jake gets to know his teammates and get a feel for college life. There are only two rules for the baseball team’s share house: 1.) No alcohol in the house and 2.) No girls in the upstairs bedrooms – it takes next to no time for both these rules to be broken and broken with gusto. His teammates seem like nice guys and there are plenty of beers to drink and girls to chase after.
The new film by Richard Linklater is all about this brief college prologue with its boozy afternoons and wild evenings. Marketed as the “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused, this new effort shows off everything that Linklater is good at directing; nostalgic visits to the best years of youth with well written discussions about the nature of life and a killer soundtrack. While the Dazed and Confused comparison is well founded there’s also another fun way to look at this in the context of Linklater’s career. Considering that Boyhood (which the team here at Film Blerg voted our film of 2014) finishes with the main character going away to college and meeting his roommates and a girl, which is exactly how Everybody Wants Some!! begins, it’s easy to see the two making a good double feature.
The title (with those two exclamation marks) comes from the Van Halen song. Music plays a pivotal role in most Linklater films and the soundtrack here is an absolute treat. Nearly every scene has music playing in the background and the song choices are toe-tapping treats of classic rock. Blondie to Queen to The Knack are just some that make up this amazing soundtrack and it contains one of the greatest car sing-a-long scenes in film history.
Performances from this group of relatively unknowns are all fine across the board. With the main cast consisting of twelve young men it’s a testament to the quality of writing and directing that none of them seem tacked on and all of them get a small but memorable character and story beat. The costumes and facial hair all deserve special mention as they look and feel perfectly of their time – meaning that they all look like modern day hipsters.
There is, however, one issue that needs addressing; the film’s treatment of women. In the filmic zeitgeist some have levelled accusations at this film of subtle sexism on account of how the group spend about two thirds of the film trying and often succeeding to pick up women, one sixth playing baseball, and the remaining sixth discussing about how to pick up women.
The difference between this and films like Pocket Listing or Project X (my pick for the worst film so far this century) is that these characters are all likable, all the women they encounter are treated with respect, and they grasp that “No” does indeed mean “No”. There are even moments where the film slows down and points out that the competitive win-at-all-cost mentality that grips youthful men, especially in US culture with its strange obsession with exceptionalism, is stupid and the retrograde attitude towards women isn’t something to aspire to.
It’s also a film set in 1980 that revolves around a group of twelve men in college who all live together, so complaining that the gender ratio is skewed is like saying that Sex and the City spends too much time around the women. It’s good that these discussions are taking place but Everybody Wants Some!! puts effort into critiquing these characters and doesn’t share in their view.
This is yet more proof that Richard Linklater is one of the finest directors currently working. It would be impossible not to have a great time while watching this simple yet funny and deeply memorable gem.
Everybody Wants Some!! is in cinemas from 23rd June 23rd through Roadshow Films.