Review: Everybody Wants Some (2016)

From the plot description and the makeup of its cast, you’d think Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some is a standard college sex-comedy. While that description is true to the film’s basic details, Everybody Wants Some is far gentler and looser than any other sex comedy. It’s more akin to American Graffiti or Linklater’s own Dazed and Confused than Revenge of the Nerds. It wryly observe the specifics of the culture it depicts—in this case, the hypermasculine, hypersexual, and hypercompetitive world of college baseball players—without ever condescending to its characters or criticizing them for embodying the specifics of their time and place. It revels in a nostalgia for the Texas of 1980 and seems a touch autobiographical, but it’s not empty pining for a world of the past. It’s a film about expectation and community and understanding how you fit into the world around you. In short, it’s about the fleeting ecstasy of the end of adolescence.

Everybody Wants Some is a loose film with no urgent plot. It takes place the weekend before classes start at a fictional Texan university, following the shenanigans of the university’s baseball players. It begins with freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner) arriving at school and ends with him starting his first class. The weekend is filled with parties and club jumping and endless displays of competitive male aggression. For instance, a seemingly friendly game of ping pong between Jake and the major league prospect, McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), turns into a desperate competition after Jake demonstrates a surprising knack for the game. McReynolds compensates for this loss by later homering on Jake’s pitch during scrimmage.

This competitiveness doesn’t stop with McReynolds. The other players on the team (Glenn Powell, J. Quinton Johnson, Wyatt Russell, Juston Street, among others) are equally competitive. Whether they’re philosophizing over the best way to get girls, taking bong hits, or diving into a pond, these young men make everything a contest. Linklater never makes the particulars of this masculine world the entire point of Everybody Wants Some, but by being so observant to these young men and their world, he ends up making the film a sociology lesson-of-sorts on white, male college culture. Except, unlike a university sociology lecture, Everybody Wants Some is a blast.

Despite constantly wrestling each other to be top dog, these young men are not unappealing alpha males. Linklater allows the characters to showcase both their charms and character flaws, without ever making too much of either. The whole film takes a laidback, genial attitude towards the characters, which makes it very easy to like each and every one of them. For example, McReynolds might be an ass during a game of ping pong, but he demonstrates that he’s a dedicated captain on the field. Finnegan (Powell) is a blowhard, but he’s also judgment free when approaching the other cliques on campus.

It’s only in the final moments of Everybody Wants Some that Linklater show his hand as regards theme. A conversation between Jake and a theatre major (Zoey Deutch) he fancies reveals their shared anxieties about finding a place in the world and focusing on the thing they’re good at. It’s a short conversation, but it clarifies the way the whole film is about having fun with your identity and enjoying the specific niche you’ve carved out for yourself in the world.

While it could’ve easily been a film aimed squarely at male jocks, Everybody Wants Some ought to have broad appeal. Not only does it reveal humanity in a demographic that is easy to stereotype in our modern society, but it achieves greater statements about North American adolescence as a whole. Like many great films, its specificity makes it universal, as it ultimately becomes about community and burgeoning adulthood and finding your niche, instead of baseball and partying and being a white Texan male.

The film also demonstrates that Linklater’s affection for his characters and his attention to detail are his greatest attributes as a director. Take for instance, the Before trilogy, where he sympathizes with both Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), often simultaneously, never judging them for their obnoxious behaviour or definitely arguing that one is right over the other. Here, he takes characters who are usually drawn as unsympathetic antagonists in films of this sort and makes them lovable and relatable human beings.

Few films of recent years have left me feeling as good about the world and as optimistic about the people within it as Everybody Wants Some.

9 out of 10

Everybody Wants Some (2016, USA)

Written and directed by Richard Linklater; starring Blake Jenner, Zoey Deutch, Juston Street, Tyler Hoechlin, Glen Powell, Wyatt Russell, Temple Baker, Ryan Guzman, J. Quinton Johnson, Will Brittain.