by: Mike Reistetter
The most endearing takeaway from Richard Linklater’s newest nostalgic homage to a past generation was how oft he captured teens on the cusp of adulthood having a good time free of handheld devices and Internet dependency.
—Is what I would say if I were incapable of appreciating the film for the expected, yet still surprising and undeniable artistic value it carried throughout.
Everybody Wants Some!! has been heralded and marketed as the spiritual sequel to Linklater’s indie smash Dazed and Confused (1993). Dazed is notable for launching the careers of celebrities like Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, and many more.
The Dazed story involves the exploits and misadventures of teenagers populating various social cliques all uniting in their quest to find the location of “the big kegger,” the party to top all parties, on the last day of high school in 1976 Texas.
EWS!! created an interesting spin on such a format, as it is a boldly similar account, detailing the dynamic of a hormone-crazed baseball team during its freshman additions’ first weekend of college in 1980.
Linklater, a five-time Oscar nominee, has held true yet again to his distinction of never having to leave his home to produce a film. He followed up his monumental twelve-year project, 2014’s Boyhood, with a story that in addition to its parallels with Dazed, also picked up literally where Boyhood left off, as Linklater himself divulged in an interview with creativescreenwriting.com.
Dazed’s assumable protagonist was everyman football quarterback Randall “Pink Floyd,” who got along with everyone and had an admirable aura and depth about his character. His EWS!! counterpart is without a doubt Blake Jenner (Glee), in a breakout performance as a freshman baseball pitcher named Jake.
Jake, as Mason had done to conclude Boyhood, arrives at college and is immediately thrown into the world of roommates, partying, and most of all, self-discovery. Accompanying a packed soundtrack of 1980s hits, ranging from The Sugar Hill Gang’s pioneering hip hop rendition of Rapper’s Delight, to country, to punk rock covers of the Gilligan’s Island theme song, to the last hoorah for Disco, and so forth, Jake is seen broadening the horizons of his upperclassmen comrades, who understandably engage in behavior suggestive of identity crisis possession. He guides his elder teammates just as much as they give him, and many of his fellow freshman imports, including Wyatt Russell (22 Jump Street), son of Kurt Russell, in an equal breakout role as the bearded stoner Willoughby, some “rite of passage” doses of fraternal hazing.
Proclaimed a sports movie without the sports, EWS!! satisfies the viewer with a thirst for a more fast-paced approach to resonance than Linklater’s last film, the two-hour-and-forty-seven-minute long Boyhood. EWS!! is a film only in the sense that it was shot using a camera. It is also only a story in the sense that it had a beginning, middle, and end. While it is not as strikingly quantifiable as teetering on the waters of sheer life imitation as its grandfather of source material, Dazed and Confused was, there comes a certain point around thirty or forty minutes in, where the open-minded viewer is left with no option other than to completely forget he or she is watching a movie.
As for me, Everybody Want Some!! has granted me the ultimate appreciation of a life I gave up in favor of an alternative path. Being a decent baseball player my whole life, I had the opportunity to play here at MSMC. But at the last second, I chose to focus on academics and activities synonymous with my professional pursuits instead.
This is certainly not a decision I made with regret. Opting to remain involved with baseball only during the summertime as an amateur player/coach, I was able to both rise up the ranks of The Mount Messenger and branch out socially, no longer limiting myself to interaction with just one clique.
Fittingly enough, the first story I wrote as a reporter for The Mount Messenger happened to be a film review of Linklater’s Boyhood, which changed my life in an innumerable amount of ways during the summer leading up to my freshman year of college.
Here I am today, nearly two years later, and Linklater has somehow done it again.
While I still rank Boyhood all together as a more impactful and meticulously constructed film, Everybody Wants Some!! has the ability to acquire far less naysayers because of the qualities it shares with a cult classic like Dazed and Confused. Films of this genre tend to convey a mass appeal, catering to a particular social group (athletes) who generally seem to never get the benefit of the doubt when depicted in media portrayals of high school or college settings.
But in many cases, as in Dazed and EWS!!, there are more to jocks than meets the eye. The world of literature is better off for having characters like Randall “Pink” Floyd see reincarnation in the form of EWS!!’s Jake. The two narrators own a unique lens on life, preaching universal acceptance through personality and togetherness. The industry itself is especially more culturally representative for continuing to employ the “The King of Lone Star Cinema” Richard Linklater, who is still finding unique ways to pump the gold out of simplicity after all these years.