Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! follows a college baseball team in 1980 over the weekend before the school year is to commence, but its true subject is unbridled masculine energy. These ballplayers fit many of the stereotypes of the rowdy and freely indulged athlete, as they’re horny and boozy, but above all, drunk on themselves—on their youth, power, and their endless competitiveness as an existential purifier of life into a binary of win or lose. The ambiguity of life, attractive to artists, might strike these men as flatulent, though the more self-conscious players, such as Finn (Glenn Powell) or Jake (Blake Jenner), a freshman pitcher who serves as the audience’s surrogate, appear to be attracted to art and philosophy as much as sports, drawn to how the former can explicate the mystical simplicity of the latter.
This self-consciousness may allow Finn and Jake to enjoy the excess of the weekend more than some of their team members, because they can alternate skillfully between the intellectual and the physical, recognizing that each heightens the other—a sentiment, rare in most American films, that accounts for the distinctive sensuality of Linklater’s filmography. Finn and Jake can consider the entitled absurdity of all-night keggers and trashing their community-financed house, and proceed to do these things anyway, getting off as much on the knowledge of the trespass, on their willingness to violate interior constitutions more or less for the hell of it. Particularly Finn, who can switch between personalities at the drop of a hat, mostly for the sake of getting laid, of course, but also in the service of some sort of un-articulated social experiment. Put bluntly, they’re seeing what they can get away with.
Linklater doesn’t moralize or indulge nostalgia, though Everybody Wants Some!! grows resonantly sentimental. He offers an idealization of masculine indulgence that’s political via a pointed lack of politics. It’s easy to imagine the determinedly literal-minded tastemakers who won’t care for the film, which features men objectifying women, making dick and queer jokes with an abandon that no longer openly exists, and generally behaving as the embodiment of what well-adjusted 21st-century men aren’t supposed to be. Linklater never shows the ugliness of drunken collegiate machismo. The sex is fun, and the off-color jokes are delivered with a bonhomie that speaks of deep-seated affection, fleetingly revealing vulnerability. In their entitlement, these men perhaps accidentally embody tolerance, traveling across an expanse of micro-cultures including disco, country, punk, and theater.
Linklater offers a critique of uglier machismo, and, by extension, uglier politics, via omission, painting a portrait of a democratizing kind of hedonism. These men, with few exceptions, appear to live by their arms and their balls—but what, if contained within certain moral and empathetic parameters, is wrong with that? The women in this film are no fools; they’re equally hungry and understand and partially set the terms by which everyone sates their hunger. Linklater paints a paradise in which neurosis doesn’t appear to exist, in which body, mind, and instinct are united, offering a rosier vision than he did in this film’s spiritual and structural precursor, the intoxicating yet occasionally snide Dazed and Confused.
Dazed and Confused was Linklater’s second film, the work of a young artist out to prove himself, while Everybody Wants Some!! is the more confident work of someone who’s aged somewhat out of collusion with his young subjects, regarding them tenderly as vital aliens. Gifted and intelligent, Linklater is capable of slipping into self-righteous and smug didacticism, particularly in the overpraised Boyhood and the “Before” trilogy, but here he rediscovers his gift for merging observational comedy with fluid formalism, achieving quiet stylization under the guise of offering a “realistic” slice of life.
The film’s images are sculptural, such as the group shots that indicate everyone’s status without slipping into over-theorized lifelessness, abounding in rich, seemingly found flourishes and free-associational verbal routines, or the way cars are framed as vertical phalluses that slice across frames. Most astonishing are the club and party scenes, set to exhilarating and largely un-obvious period music, which Linklater orchestrates with a brilliant sense of ebb and flow, of escalating highs and lows and crashes and burns.
No other American film this year so far has been this pleasurable, alive, and in touch with visceral, tactile being-ness—yet laced with ephemeral melancholia, especially in the haunting final act. Linklater captures a notion of the future as a playland of possibility, poignantly understanding how rare and fragile that notion proves to be, as even the lucky few people of stature and promise eventually age out of physical and emotional pliability, out of a sense of taking one’s purpose in the world as a given.
The colors are a bit faded and washed out, though that’s by the design of a film that subtly captures the aesthetic of the early 1980s. There’s a pleasing, nearly impressionist sense of Technicolor color in Everybody Wants Some!! that’s honored by this transfer, which walks the delicate balance of offering a beautiful but not too beautiful image preservation. Image detail is exacting and pristine, as one can easily discern the minute textures of the clothing fabrics and objects that are understood to rigorously define the characters. The various soundtracks are excellent, rendering this rowdy party film an unlikely candidate for show-pony home-video exhibition. The film’s many songs really pop, with a palpable sense of heft and nuance.
"Everybody Wants Some!! More Stuff That’s Not in the Movie" offers a collection of deleted scenes and outtakes that are amusing on their own terms, while revealing a little about the shaping of the film. The other featurettes collectively elaborate on various aspects of the training and recruiting of the actors, including promising footage that ultimately exists as little more than extended trailers for the film. The best of these featurettes is "Rickipedia," which provides a far too brief glimpse at Richard Linklater’s seemingly photographic memory of 1980s culture. This supplements package is a missed opportunity, priming one for a documentary or audio commentary that isn’t provided.
Richard Linklater’s rowdy, sensual party odyssey, one of the best films of the year so far, is accorded a sturdy transfer that’s in dire need of a few evocative extras.