Everybody Wants Some!! is the kind of film (college comedy-drama) I would normally avoid at all costs, but it was made by Richard Linklater, one of my favourite filmmakers (he has five films in my top 150) and has been getting very positive reviews, so I had to take the chance.
Everybody Wants Some!! takes place in a southern Texas college town over the course of three days just before college starts in September, 1980. While the action focuses on two people (Jake and Beverly, played by Blake Jenner and Zoey Deutch), the film is really an ensemble piece involving eight college baseball players who have just moved into a large house where they will live together for the next eight months or so. Jake is a freshman, so he’s subject to certain trials and surprises, though nothing too outrageous. There’s a lot of alcohol consumed, some drugs are on hand and most of the players are looking to score a woman each night before college starts. Jake, however, is thinking about a serious long-term relationship and has his eyes on a particular girl (Beverly).
Everybody Wants Some!! has its charms and insights, highlighting the joys of living in the moment and suggesting that life and creativity are about working with the options you have been given to find your place. But this is not a typical Linklater film full of thought-provoking dialogue about the meaning of life and relationships. There is some of that, but only in small doses. Add the fact that it was impossible for us to identify with any of the characters because their activities and thoughts were so foreign to our experience (despite the fact that I was a baseball-loving college student in 1980) and you have a film that, for us, was never really compelling. It did, however, elicit a long discussion about what it was trying to say about Texas college life in 1980; that discussion alone made the film worth watching.
Having mentioned the characters, it should be noted that Everybody Wants Some!! provides us with a unique set of characters, each of whom have are given a story of their own and each of whom are played well by the cast of unknowns (though most of the performances fell short of outstanding). This is definitely a highlight. The problem was just our failure to identify with any of these stories. I should also note my assumption that the story is somewhat autobiographical, suggesting that Linklater, despite the way he connects with me in so many films, had a very different experience in college than I did.
The cinematography felt like 1980 while still being gorgeous to look at, which is quite the feat. The music didn’t work for me, but that’s because the glorious 70’s had passed and I appreciated very little popular music from the 80’s (U2 is the most notable exception). All in all, the best I can say is that, for a college comedy-drama, Everybody Wants Some!! could have been a lot worse (most critics, apparently, don’t suffer from my natural aversion to the genre). A solid ***. My mug is up.