Anybody who has ever gone to school will know the feeling of those last pristine days of summer before classes start. Endless nights, sleeping in late, and doing just about everything you can to distract yourself from that impending doom become cherished memories as they’re set against a backdrop of your closest friends, good music, and a sort of golden aura that glazes over those waning hours. To capture this spirt is like trying to contain the essence of an era: the music, the clothes, the attitude. Richard Linklater did that once in Dazed and Confused as he made the 70s come alive in his early masterpiece. And now he has done it again, this time with the early days of the 1980s.
Like Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! tosses a conventional story out the window and focuses more on the characters and era. On the last three days of summer, Jake (Blake Jenner) moves into a new house and meets his baseball team: a motley crew of jocks, cowboys, philosophical stoners and psychopaths. Instead of having a clear path to the first day of classes, Linklater sends his characters on an unpredictable weekend of dancing, drinking, girls, and endless trash-talk between the team, leaving the audience with a smile on its face for just about the entire time.
Linklater really knows how to write unforgettable characters: each of the half-dozen or so housemates that come in and out of the movie feel like fully fleshed out characters with backstories and charm. With a refreshing and exceptional cast full of mostly unknown actors, Linklater lets you get to know them over the course of the weekend without the feeling of having “brand-name” actors stealing the show; this is everyone’s ball game.
The most important thing about Linklater’s work is how he hones in on the little things that add into the spirit of the times. From the stellar soundtrack with the likes of “My Sharona” and “Rapper’s Delight,” to the keen sense of prop use in the form of dozens of records and handheld video games, all the way to the shoes, talk, and general feeling of the time, Linklater weaves these characters through time as we get but a snapshot of a bygone era.
Perhaps the movie’s greatest strength is the sheer camaraderie between the teammates. As the gang moves from disco halls to country bars and frat-like house parties to artsy performing arts get-togethers, Linklater let’s the boys be boys as they unrelentingly find new ways to take the piss out of each other. The entire cast has some truly excellent chemistry together, so much so that it comes as surprise when Jake meets Beverly (Zoey Deutch), a semi-forced love interest in the film. The two have an almost unbearable lack of chemistry in the early stages, though one can argue that that is the point. These moments are cute and offer a bit of breathing room from all of the testosterone, but it feels like there could have been something much more poignant here as Linklater is no stranger to romance.
Linklater’s latest time-machine is a spectacular work that has all the makings to be just as much of a classic as Dazed and Confused. While many know him from Boyhood (fans can spot a familiar face from it here) Linklater’s work has consistently proven him to be one of the best directors of our time. Everybody Wants Some!! only further cements that claim as Linklater transports audiences to a time they may or may not have experienced, but makes it feel like they have anyway.