Like Stand By Me or Pretty Woman, Everybody Wants Some!! is a movie that found fame as a song title first. The tune was the B side to “And the Cradle Will Rock”, a Van Halen single released in May 1980. That date is pretty appropriate because 1980 is exactly when this story is set – just 4 years after Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. This has been billed as a spiritual sequel to that film. Despite the year, this really feels like the last holdover of the lazy, hazy 70s. The action takes place in August over a weekend just before the start of classes at a small Texas college. The events make for a much lighter, brighter and upbeat comedy.
Once again Linklater has selected an attractive cast of talented up and coming unknowns. Our lack of familiarity with these actors actually helps because it makes the account seem like some long lost document of the era. The ensemble meshes together like a band of friends. The loosely constructed story revolves around Jake Bradford (Blake Jenner), a college freshman, the weekend before classes begin. An aspiring baseball player, he’s living off campus with a bunch of jocks. They’re united by a talent for baseball, but the sport is merely an excuse to round up a bunch of guys united by the same interest. There’s a genuine camaraderie amongst the group but there’s also a sense of competitiveness as well. These guys aren’t lacking in self-confidence. They all live, eat, drink and argue under the same roof. They also chase girls together. There’s a certain bro mentality that permeates the proceedings. I’m talking about hard partying males looking to meet chicks. There’s even more emphasis on that particular pastime of sorts. I think it’s a safe to assume the movie title refers to that mindset.
Predicting which, if any, of these unknowns will become the next breakout star is tough because, to borrow a title from one of the many soundtrack songs, “Every 1’s a Winner.” Blake Jenner is a magnetic lead as freshman Jake. He’s the main protagonist. Fast talking Finn (Glen Powell) is the apparent leader of the gang. He suggests Matthew McConaughey with his easygoing charm. Tyler Hoechlin is the arrogant Glen. He’s the best prospect at becoming pro and the one with the most swagger. Actor Hoechlin actually has some real life baseball experience. Incidentally if hasn’t shaved, given his bushy stache, he should seriously consider doing The Keith Hernandez Story next. Actors Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt) and Juston Street get a couple of the more flashier bit parts, but honestly everyone here makes an impression.
I could spend paragraphs applauding the mostly male cast. There’s too many to analyze each actor one by one. However attention must be paid to the one significant female role, Zoey Deutch as Beverly. She provides a contrast as a theater major who invites Jake to a party of her drama geek friends. They’re not exactly the kind of people Jake and his friends usually hang out with. But Jake is truly smitten by her and she plays a major role in revealing his sincere heart. Their interactions, particularly during an awkward phone call, expose a tenderness that truly exists underneath Jake’s frat guy tribe attitude.
As with any chronicle of another time, we’re dealing with generalizations, but Linklater truly gets the spirit of the age down. It’s a time period the director knows well as Linklater himself was a hopeful baseball player at Sam Houston State University in 1980. The affection he has for this subject matter comes through every lovingly recreated scene. There is such an eye for key details, right down to the fashion of the time. Those short shorts, skin tight polyester shirts and abundant mustaches establish the time period just as well as the corsets and cleavage in a costume drama do. Additionally, music is beautifully woven into the fabric of this production. The scenes in the clubs almost play out like the production numbers in a musical. These dudes have an inclusive zen like impartiality about life. It doesn’t matter the style, be it disco, country or punk. They just want to meet women. 1980 was a period when a wide range of various musical styles reigned supreme on the charts. Rock, pop, country, soul, disco, punk, even the very beginnings of rap, were all part of the musical landscape of the times. A diverse range of styles had an equal opportunity on the radio airwaves. It was a very egalitarian musical era. Everybody Wants Some!! celebrates this spirit with sincere joy. It’s infectious.