Nobody will want any of Linklater’s tedious newest
Remember that time in college when you sat around your buddy’s room, listening to records, smoking pot and talking about Carl Sagan and old Twilight Zone episodes? Or that time you went to a super freaky party thrown by theater majors? Or that time your housemate got totally bent because you beat him at ping pong? You don’t? Well, writer/director Richard Linklater sure does, and he’s going to make you relive all those experiences and more in his meandering, occasionally funny, but mostly dull new picture Everybody Wants Some!! When you need not one, but two exclamation points to take the place of genuine excitement in your film, you know you’re in trouble.
Linklater has described this film as the “spiritual sequel” to his 1993 1970s-set high school coming of age classic Dazed and Confused, but, in actuality, his new picture plays out more like a continuation of 2014’s far superior Boyhood. Remember that that film ended with young Mason moving into his college dorm and realizing he was about to embark on a new, wide open chapter in his young adult life? Everybody Wants Some!! starts outs with an identical scene, only with a new, albeit fairly similar, character: freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner, Glee), who, like Ellar Coltrane’s Mason, is also quietly watchful and more sensitive than he lets on.
As the film opens, Jake unpacks his car and hefts his box of LPs (the film is set in 1980) into the off-campus house he’s to share with his fellow baseball teammates at the fictional Southeastern Texas University. Richard Linklater, it should be noted, also played baseball at a Texas university until he dropped out in 1982. And therein lies the problem. The entire film, while beautifully detailed and spot-on with its early 1980s period aesthetic, feels very much like the wistful longings of a filmmaker who is having trouble letting go of his past and embracing his future.
A little nostalgia goes a long way, and, unlike in Boyhood, which masterfully portrayed all the conflict, struggle, and joys of a 12 year period of growing up, Linklater’s new film, which covers only the first three days of campus life before classes begin, is entirely static. There is no conflict, no growth, and most of the characters are such interchangeable stereotypes (the California stoner, the country bumpkin from the sticks, the super competitive athlete, the angry weirdo, etc.) that we never get a clear sense of any of them. Jake himself is a bit of a tabula rasa, a nice looking kid taking in all his new experiences without much thoughtful questioning or processing. I suppose that’s Linklater’s point: that 18-year-olds should embrace new experiences without overthinking them, but watching three days of college kids killing time playing darts, drinking beer, and trying to get laid isn’t nearly as compelling as Linklater obviously thinks it is.
Linklater throws in all the Animal House college movie clichés, too: the epic parties with the pot brownies, keg stands, Twister, and mud wrestling are all there, and punk parties, theater parties, disco clubs, and country-western bars all get their due as well. The soundtrack is the one bright spot; at least all this screwing around is set to fun oldies like My Sharona and Whip It, which gives you something to hold your attention when what’s going on on screen doesn’t.
The cast of mostly unknowns does fine, if somewhat forgettable work; besides Blake Jenner, who gets the most screen time, Tyler Hoechlin, whose Burt Reynolds-esque mustache makes him a dead ringer for Tom Berenger in The Big Chill, appoints himself well as the uber-competitive McReynolds, and Zoey Deutch (Lea Thompson’s daughter), as Beverly, the theater major to whom Jake takes a liking, is earnest and sweet without being cloying. The best scene in the movie, in fact, is the one outside the bro-hang framework: Beverly and Jake share a moment in a swimming hole during which they discuss their passions and expectations with a raw, honest intensity that transcends the jokey frat-boy sensibility of the rest of the picture.
Too bad the film couldn’t have had more such moments; instead, it unfolds like a home video of favorite freshman year college highlights. And home movies, as most of us are painfully aware, are way more interesting to the videographer than to the viewer. You may be better off hauling your dusty college album from your shelf and waxing nostalgic over your own college days; you’ll no doubt find them more meaningful than this particular picture.
Everybody Wants Some!! opens today at Bay Area theaters.