The Films of 2016: Everybody Wants Some!!

In a 1999 interview Pauline Kael called Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995) “one of the best movies about the romance of people in their early 20s discovering intellectual soulmates.”  In the time since that early film Linklater has become, along with Noah Baumbach and Sofia Coppola, a great teller of young people’s stories.  His latest, the unfortunately titled Everybody Wants Some!!, is not an intellectual romance in the Before Sunrise vein but an up-tempo hang-out movie in the manner of his high-school comedy Dazed and Confused (1993).  Where that film, set in 1976, chronicled the last day of the school year, Everybody Wants Some!! covers the span of a long weekend in 1980, as members of a college baseball team prepare for the start of the fall semester at their southern Texas university.

Everybody Wants Some!! is the cinematic equivalent of a big, energetic dog jumping onto your lap and covering your face with slobbery kisses.  As good-natured and cheerfully vulgar as its characters, the film’s charm is hard to resist even as you want to push it away.  Personally, I found myself getting tired of the film’s crew of rough-housing, bull-shitting, trash-talking jocks at about the one-hour mark.  But it helps that Linklater routinely arranges for their hijinks to collide with those of various other campus subcultures.  At one point, frustrated by their inability to score chicks at the local disco, the guys try their luck at a punk club and end up moshing to a cover version of the Gilligan’s Island jingle; at another, they wind up at an Alice-in-Wonderland-themed party being thrown by the resident theater-department freaks and geeks.  The hermetic world inhabited by the baseball players is revealed to be just one of many such worlds, each governed by its own internal rules and codes, that together add up to something that might be called “college.”

The discovery of each of those subcultures—which is to say the discovery of other people and ideas and other ways of being in the world—is the golden thread that connects the relatively slight Everybody Wants Some!! to Linklater’s greater works, such as Boyhood, Waking Life and the Before filmsEverybody Wants Some!! is at its best when it manages to capture the thrill of being young, happy, directionless, and hungry for experience, as well as the curiosity that arises out of the encounter with something (or someone) new.  But Linklater isn’t in full-on philosophical mode in this film; he’s content to let whatever profundity might lie beneath this story keep sleeping a little while longer, preferably in a haze of bong smoke.  Like its main character, who is last seen drifting off in the first moments of the first day of his first college class, the movie wants to think deeply…just not yet.  In its own dumb, innocent way, that’s beautiful, too.

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