The swaggering drumbeat of “My Sharona” kicks off Everybody Wants Some!!, as if to assure its audience right off the bat not to worry — the next two hours are going to be a blast. Richard Linklater’s latest earns both its exclamation points.
A “spiritual sequel” to Linklater’s 1993 now-classic Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! is set four years after that movie, in 1980; while Dazed followed freshman Mitch’s (Wiley Wiggins) initiation into high-school life, Everybody tails freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) through his first weekend at college in Austin, Texas.
Linklater builds a completely believable world and invites us to make ourselves at home. Jake and his fellow baseball players live together in a big, shambolic house off campus (they praise its lack of “central authority”); like the costumes and hairstyles, the décor is almost scarily period-accurate and unfussy. The movie doesn’t stray far from this crew of loveably blustering athletes, who are arrogant but not toxic. We can root for them to score without feeling too boorish ourselves.
The cast of young unknowns adds to Everybody’s loose, down-home appeal. Linklater presents an appealing cross-section of late-’70s/ early-’80s social circles that feels familiar but not clichéd. Like his characters, he’s happy to inhabit whatever space might offer a good time, be it a punk show or an art-freak costume party. The baseball crew parties at a Day-Glo disco called Sound Machine, all neon pinks and yellows and blues, and Linklater lingers among the couples on the dance floor longer than he needs to.
And why not? Never one to spoil the fun, Linklater extends sequences past the point of exposition — like a scene in which the dudes cruise around campus singing along to “Rapper’s Delight.” It lasts several verses longer that necessary, and it could have gone on longer. Pure candy.
Despite its steady focus on the male characters, and adherence to their perspective, Everybody’s attitude toward sex is refreshingly free of both moral finger-wagging and dudebro noxiousness. The guys — and the camera — ogle plenty of girls, but they also lounge in tight T-shirts and short shorts with knee-high socks. Getting ready for a night out, Roper (Ryan Guzman) approvingly eyes his ass in the mirror. The time period begs junk-framing jeans and football jerseys cut off at the waist.
It’s not just the beefcake that renders the film’s sexual politics fair and balanced. Jake’s love interest, Beverly (Zoey Deutch), is sexy and mysterious when the two first lock eyes, but when they meet and begin talking later in the film, she transforms into a sweet, cool girl with a personality all her own. A theater major with a Joni Mitchell poster on her dorm-room wall, Beverly (the name is another period-appropriate touch, as is the fact that no one makes fun of it) isn’t the projection of a fantasy but a fully fleshed character who has a life outside her courtship with Jake. She invites him to a theater party, a whole other scene, and Jake’s new friends tag along with excitement, not cynicism.
It’s a blast to hang out in this world. We chaperone as the boys play Space Invaders and pool; line-dance to “Cotton-Eyed Joe” at a honky-tonk; make pot brownies; and splash around in an Edenic swimming hole. Everybody lacks the undercurrent of dread that flows through Dazed and Confused — there are locker-room hijinks and light hazing, but nothing like the threat of a Ben Affleck-administered paddle thrashing. The tone is less “the end of childhood” than “the end of the weekend.”
Still, Linklater’s pursuit of pleasure is a meaningful quest. The “some” that everybody wants here is plainly sex, but the gang engages in enough undergraduate philosophizing to suggest that they’re hoping to get more than just laid. An anticipated visit from a major-league scout looms over a tense baseball practice, a contrast to the players’ earlier cockiness over their vaunted status on campus as members of the college’s most successful sports team. The boys aim to squeeze whatever they can out of life, and considering they live in a Richard Linklater movie, who can blame them?
In one scene, the boys gather in the room of Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), a sort of stoner guru with a collection of taped Twilight Zone episodes and a Lone-Star-emblazoned bong. He takes a giant rip and starts to talk about music in a monologue that rambles as charmingly as the film itself. But if you listen closely, there are nuggets of gold in Willoughby’s stoner soliloquy: “You gotta tune in, man, you gotta tune in,” he blathers. “And don’t be afraid to let the experience find you.”
That might as well be the tagline of the film — or maybe all of Linklater’s films. Everybody Wants Some!! fits into what has become my favorite movie genre: the “don’t worry about the plot, just come along for the ride” film. I was reminded of Magic Mike XXL, another movie about a guy and his friends looking for a good time. In the end, Channing Tatum’s stripper-turned-businessman happily gazes at a Myrtle Beach fireworks display, surrounded by his former strip-club friends. He’ll go back to his life and they’ll go back to theirs. But in that moment, life is perfect.
Everybody Wants Some!! is the cure to all our trouble and strife, a love letter to living just when we need it the most. It’s a warning to audiences young and old: don’t let the bitterness of aging stop you from tuning in, from finding meaning and joy in what might be mistaken for a low-stakes quest for “college pussy.” School will start soon enough; better enjoy the weekend while it lasts.