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Everybody Wants Some!!

(2016) *** R
117 min. Paramount Pictures. Director: Richard Linklater. Cast: Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Ryan Guzman, Wyatt Russell.


Richard Linklater’s new film Everybody Wants Some!!  is an odd duck: an arthouse Animal House. But that’s why the writer-director’s fans love him, for his shaggy, intellectual idiosyncracy. In what other college party movie would you find a character deconstructing the myth of Sisyphus as part of a seduction?

Everybody Wants Some!! takes place at the fictional South East Texas University in August of 1980, as Linklater follows incoming college freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) in the three days before classes begin. Since Jake is on the baseball team (the retro-named Cherokees), his first duty as a student is to check into one of two neighboring off-campus houses where the team lodges. Jake’s fifteen teammates make up an eclectic bunch of personalities, as befitting any college dorm, although this ensemble comedy displays less gender diversity in its focus than Linklater’s revered 1993 one, Dazed and Confused.

There’s a brief team meeting and a long practice scene, but the film mostly concerns dedicated hanging out. The characters play pinball, Nerf basketball, Space Invaders, foosball, pool, darts, ping-pong, poker, and bloody knuckles (“Hey,” asks Jake, “You notice everything around here is a competition? Even taking hits from bongs?”). They drink and dance at a country-western bar (line-dancing and bucking bronco), a punk club, the Sound machine disco and the generic student watering hole, The Jolly Fox. They mildly haze each other in the locker room, romp at a swimming hole, get ice cream and pizza by the slice. And, of course, they sit around their house, drinking beer, smoking pot, spinning platters, reading Kerouac and Sagan, getting lucky, throwing a party (mud wrestling!!), and—double of course—practicing the fine art of conversation.

That last one is Linklater’s signature: clever, discursive conversation, like the kind that powered Before Sunrise and its sequels. Specifically, Linklater’s latest loosely follows up on his two of his most celebrated films. In period terms, Everbody Wants Some!! lines up with the adolescent protagonist of Linklater’s 1976-set Dazed and Confused, who would be entering college in 1980, and as Boyhood ends with its boy arriving, as a young man, at college and meeting new friends, Everybody Wants Some!! begins at the same moment, albeit with different characters.

Like Dazed and Confused, the engagingly loose Everybody Wants Some!! serves partly as a nostalgic and unabashed glorification of young idiocy. Linklater depicts these pre-P.C. men as mostly testosterone-fueled and a bit insecure, with their ballbusting banter and preening cock-of-the-walk machismo, turned drunk and horny, drunk and belligerent, or drunk and blathering by a liberal application of alcohol. But Linklater reserves smarts and sweetness for his heroic surrogate Jake, especially as influenced by his immediate crush, theatre-and-dance major Beverly (Zoey Deutch), and their mostly intelligent, endearingly awkward flirtation. Everybody Wants Some!! has a slender story, but milieu and character to spare.

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