In a Richard Linklater movie, an aimless plot isn’t a bad thing. Nearly any other commercial American filmmaker who attempts to peddle nearly plotless slices of Americana — like Linklater did in last year’s masterpiece Boyhood or 1993’s stoner classic Dazed and Confused — would inevitably fuck it up, by being far too arty for their own good. Linklater literally put the now-vaunted Austin film scene on the map, so expectations must have been high for the hometown boy to open the 30th SXSW Film Festival in a movie that’s a blood relative to one of his most iconic films. But with Everybody Wants Some, a 80’s day-before-the-first-day-of-college comedy-drama spiritual successor to Dazed and Confused, Linklater has pulled it off once again by creating a worthy semi-follow up.
So, about that aimless plot: It’s the fall of 1980 in southeast Texas, and Jake (Blake Jenner) is ready to start college as a freshman pitcher on a baseball scholarship. First seen behind the wheel of a ‘72 Oldsmobile hot-rod with a stack of delicious vinyl and the rest of his stuff in the backseat, Jake soon saunters into the University-sanctioned baseball house to meet his teammates and partners in collegiate debauchery.
The camaraderie and borderline-troubling hazing rituals take off from there, with Jake bouncing off of each uber personality to shade in Linklater’s deeply funny return to hangout movies. Of note are Finn (Glen Powell), the smooth talker with a heart of gold; the cocksure alpha male (Tyler Hoechlin, who is a spitting image of a beefier, or more chiseled, Burt Reynolds); and the metaphysical stoner Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), who will most likely go down as this movie’s version of Matthew McConaughey’s iconic Dazed character, Wooderson. Alright, alright, alright.
What follows is a three-day spate of partying and bonding before classes begin. Jake doesn’t so much figure out his place in the world, as he lets the answers come to him in the form of social exchanges out of sheer availability. Everybody Wants Some’s loose structure reflect the baseball team’s own extended wanderings or plentiful bouts of skirt-chasing: from a disco, to a country-western bar, to a punk show, to the performing arts shindig where our hero sets his sights on Beverly, a cute Freshman who initially rebuffs the group’s Animal House antics before hinting that she’s into strong silent types like Jake.
Whereas Dazed borrowed heavily from the cruising aesthetic of George Lucas’ similarly plotted 1973 movie American Graffiti, Everybody Wants Some ditches the cars and knocks back a few extra beers. These are dudes in their element upside down, doing keg stands. And it’s here, in an alcohol and THC-tinged stupor that they lay their souls bare in between insults and cuss words. The endless partying and “Dude, brah, yeah, right?” dialogue might seem tedious to some, and the ending seems to overstay its welcome. But Linklater is able to fill his dude-bro auteurist tendencies with subtle subtext. Everybody Wants Some may look like it’s all about dudes trying to outwardly define themselves, but it’s actually about the way the identities of these dudes are defined by others.
It’s quite simply Linklater doing his thing, taking a nostalgic breath after the home run of Boyhood — an unprecedented 12-year cinematic odyssey — and hitting a solid triple, making it all look effortless. Between the ubiquitous rock music soundtrack, the cast of Altman-esque abundance, the you’re-there production design, the spot-on short-shorts wardrobe, the pseudo-bro philosophy, and the characters’ comedic southern charm, Everybody Wants Some is destined to be a laid back classic watched over and over again at various levels of intoxication.