Author’s Note: This review first appeared on MonkeyGoose on April 1, 2016.
By now, most people know exactly what to expect from a Richard Linklater film. To the uninitiated, let me sum it up: little-to-no plot, lots and lots of fun dialogue from fun characters that is at times pseudo-philosophical but often borders on profundity, and an emphasis on the here and now (wherever and whenever that “here and now” may be).
So it’s really not surprising that there isn’t much plot in Everybody Wants Some!! It follows 18-year-old Jake Bradford (Blake Jenner) through his first few days as a member of a college baseball team (and all that implies) in Texas in 1980. We open on Jake pulling up to the baseball house on the Thursday before classes start and we stay with him through his first weekend in college, as he introduces himself to his teammates/housemates, as the team parties like college kids in the post-Vietnam pre-AIDS era were wont to do, as they occasionally talk about and play baseball, and as Jake woos a freshman theater major, Beverly (Zoey Deutch).
In this case, it’s difficult to complain about (or even notice) the lack of a real plot. Enough interesting and fun things happen to distract from the fact that there’s barely a semblance of a three-act structure (unlike Linklater’s Boyhood and Before trilogy, which are almost aggressively plotless). And I emphasize the fun part, because honestly, it’s infectious. Imagine if Animal House (1978) and The Bad News Bears (1976) had a baby, and that baby had a baby with Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1993), and that’s basically what you’re working with here. Even if you don’t laugh out loud (I didn’t), it’s the kind of humor where you sit there with a content smile on your face for just about the entire runtime (which I did).
Though the baseball team spends considerably more time partying than playing baseball, it’s important to note that this isn’t a band of lovable losers; the movie makes a point to say that the team is nationally ranked, the best sports team on campus, and made up of players who were all superstars on their respective high school teams. While it may seem like these characters take absolutely nothing seriously, that’s just a façade they put up. They care very much about baseball, and more importantly, about each other.
As someone who played baseball up until college, that rings true for me; as much as teammates joke and rag on each other (and as much as they may actively dislike each other, in some cases), they’re still teammates, through and through. I’m personally pleased with how accurately the movie captures the social dynamics of a baseball team – camaraderie, pranks, superstitions, egos, and a few weirdos – but I’m also impressed by how much the tone and cadence of Beverly’s dialogue – bright, articulate, and almost sing-song – sounds exactly like the musical theater kids I hung out with in college. Those may seem like minor observations, but when a movie is dealing with a very specific time and place, the authenticity and specificity matter a great deal.
Regardless of whether this specificity applies to you directly, the overall message of the movie is carefully constructed to be broader. It goes beyond baseball, beyond musical theater, beyond this unbridled type of college experience, beyond 1980. As previously mentioned, Linklater writes movies about the here and now (see Dazed and Confused, the Before trilogy, and Boyhood), and that’s just what this is. Through all the fun and impossibly-tight clothes of 1980, the movie eventually circles back to Linklater’s signature profound conversations: about being in a time and place that you feel alive, doing something that you feel alive doing, doing something you care about with people you care about.
Everybody certainly wants some of that.