There’s something about these Richard Linklater films, man. It’s hard to know exactly how to describe the phenomenon that is a Linklater picture, with each of his movies containing a spirit that can’t be seen, but a spirit that has such a tangibility that audience members come away from a project enveloped by his world building, his characters, and his themes. His latest film, Everybody Wants Some, manages to be so many things at once: a sports film, a coming of age story, a brilliant comedy, and a deep rumination on college life and the human condition.
Making all of those elements work is a monumental challenge, even for a film that’s under two hours long, and yet Linklater does it with such ease. I think what made this movie such a good film in my mind was that Linklater found new and interesting ways to bring his themes across. Setting the movie in 1980 was perfect because in many ways it helped Linklater mirror the crossroads that his main character Jake, played by Blake Jenner, was in. In one moment the group of guys is striking out at a disco club and being thrown out because of Jay Niles, so they decide to go to the country club, after a wardrobe change of course. It’s a hilarious sequence of scenes, but there’s some underlying pathos to it. Even though these guys are horn dogs and “dumb” jocks, they’re still just kids. That’s what college life is like, trying on new clothes, new personalities till you find the one you like best, even if it is just for a night.
Lest you think that this is just going to be a romp (though it is raucously funny, with my favorite being the waterbed joke), Linklater manages to wring some deeper meaning from the proceedings. Jake’s relationship with Beverly (the wonderful Zoey Duetch) is a sweet exploration of young love that can be found even in the most hedonistic of settings. Their split screen phone call is one of the movie’s best scenes, providing both actors a place to let their natural charisma show and give engaging performances. Another great scene in this movie happens during the “voluntary” players only practice, when Niles and McReynolds make nice after a really heated exchange. Juston Street‘s wild take on a super serious pitcher and Tyler Hoechlin‘s wonderfully naturalistic performance as Greg McReynolds make for fun bedfellows.
Everyone in the ensemble rocks (my faves include the aforementioned Jenner, Hoechlin, and Temple Baker), but special attention must be paid to Glenn Powell. I was familiar with him since he was the best part of Scream Queens, but even more blown away by his talent here. He has the ability to make a character no matter how wacky feel grounded and real to anyone who might encounter them, whether in the script or in the audience. That kind of acting ability and timing is perfect fit for this film and for Linklater’s aesthetic.
Everybody Wants Some is a film that everyone deserves a chance to see. With its breezy run time, fun jaunts, and deeper meaning, it’s one of the year’s best films.