In the world of the cinema, there are some people that seem to make any film be considered classics simply by being involved with them. Richard Linklater is one such person, with his films always garnering critical acclaim – the coming-of-age comedy Dazed and Confused, the romantic Before… trilogy, Jack Black ‘em-up School of Rock and recent Oscar favourite Boyhood being amongst his works. I’m assuming, then, that his involvement explains the incredibly positive critical reception to Everybody Wants Some!!, because I don’t know what else could. It’s dull, annoying and full of horrible characters.
Set over the three days before term begins in a 1980s Texas college, the film follows a freshman (Blake Jenner), a hotshot pitcher in high school, as he arrives and meets his new baseball teammates. The group starts to tear around campus, drinking and cruising in search of girls to sleep with. In addition to chasing this hectic lifestyle, Jake also tries to find to pursue a girl (Zoey Deutch) that he met on the first day and seek a meaningful relationship with her.
Now, much as I hated the film, it cannot be said that Linklater lacks the ability to conjure up nostalgia. The director has a fantastic sense of time, and the world of this film is unmistakably that of the 80s. He evokes this not only through the visual, but especially the audio, with a wonderful soundtrack that powers the film along (and, frankly, is about the only thing that does).
In an ensemble cast of about nine, you’d expect there to be at least one who was fun, or pleasant, or indeed tolerable, but there is no such luck here. I believe the viewer is meant to enjoy the laddish behaviour of these guys, and surrender to the fun that they are having, but you never do. They are insufferably smug jock assholes who just wander around, eager to play baseball and score with women. In real life, you would hate these people if you had the misfortune to know any of them (something made all the more annoying in the film world as they suffer no consequences for anything and everybody loves them).
This is particularly notable in the lead character of Jake. He turns up at the house and immediately falls in with the ways of his teammates, dissipating any possible like of him you may have had. He gets up to all the same things and then decides to pursue something more meaningful, which I believe is set up as something the viewer is meant to enjoy (and possibly, even, feel some emotion at).
But you don’t. I found myself consciously angry at the fact he was winding up happy – Linklater has created a character I didn’t want to wind up happy. It’s hardly the typical coming-of-age message these films aim for.
Now, the characters are cripplingly terrible, but that could be forgivable in part if the film itself was enjoyable. It says it is a comedy, in what I can only assume is an intentional breach of the Trade Description Act – nobody laughed at all. Some laughs necessitate us liking the characters (but, as we don’t, they come across as dicks talking to each other dickishly) and some set-ups simply do not pay off. This film is frequently boring – there’s no other way to describe it. I’m aware that the lack of events is a stylistic choice, but the sheer amount of set-ups that are then ignored becomes frustrating in the end (one example – an early scene indicates a water bed is going to come through the ceiling. We never hear of it again).
The more reviews I look at, I simply don’t get all the critical butt-kissing – Everybody Wants Some!! is one of the worst films I’ve seen in a long time. There can be few worse ways to spend your time that watching horrible people with annoyingly cushy lives be horrible for two hours, harking back to a time in which these people ruled the roost and painting it as fantastic. This is an extraordinary misfire, dull beyond belief, and I urge you not to waste your time.
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Blake Jenner (Jake), Juston Street (Jay), Ryan Guzman (Roper), Tyler Hoechlin (McReynolds), Wyatt Russell (Willoughby), Glen Powell (Finnegan)
Running Time: 117 Mins