Striving over and over for something seemingly meaningless might appear to be a waste of time, but then again, isn’t everything? 

click to enlarge Left to right: Blake Jenner plays Jake and Zoey Deutch plays Beverly in Everybody Wants Some from Paramount Pictures and Annapurna Pictures. - VAN REDIN
  • Van Redin
  • Left to right: Blake Jenner plays Jake and Zoey Deutch plays Beverly in Everybody Wants Some from Paramount Pictures and Annapurna Pictures.

Writer/Director Richard Linklater is the king of the ramble. From his debut Slacker to hazy Dazed and Confused, the delicate cadence of the Before series and the formulative memory vignettes of Boyhood, Linklater has made a career of roundabout raconteuring. Everybody Wants Some!! brings his lackadaisical, narcotic strut at its highest potency to a Texas college baseball team in the heart of the ’80s.

From this team of skirt-chasing, binge-drinking, freshman-hazing jocks, the movie carves out intricate notches into its definition of masculinity. We’re chauffeured around the team’s off-campus housing and its orbiting parties, practices and local bars by naive (though not as much as some) freshman pitcher Jake (played by Blake Jenner, sporting a Linklater-like shagginess).

His teammates are specifically defined in the vague ways that we define schoolmates and dorm buddies: with a particular story or nickname summarizing our entire view of them as people. There’s a guy named Coma, a guy who only ever talks — with a socially ambivalent intensity — about how utterly talented he is at baseball, a Twilight Zone-recording stoner and a farm boy. They are snapshots in a yearbook, aimed to condense a year’s living in an image.

Many of inescapably charismatic Jenner’s co-stars leap from the screen. Former child actor Tyler Hoechlin’s brawny team captain combines temper, coolness and leadership just a few inches short of mature, while newcomers Temple Baker and J. Quinton Johnson shine as a quintessential dumb jock and a confident straight-shooter, respectively. Glen Powell plays Finn, Jake’s motor-mouthed mentor, with such pizzazz, empathy and confidence pitched somewhere between complete narcissism and transcendence that he’s easily the breakthrough performance of the piece.

The bricolage of personalities is unified not only by baseball, youth or testosterone, but by passion. We see competitive energies turn every event into a friendly pissing contest with easily discerned winners and losers.

Love and sex become as much a sport as anything else.
Strategy always forms the basis of conversations; from pickup lines to life planning, the slackers are made ambitious by their framing.

Though the rich-hued picture slowly drifts along sunny dirt roads and populated parking lots, bright enthusiasm bursts from every nook. Jake’s crush Beverly, a drama student played by wonderfully metered Zoey Deutch, brings a quiet intensity as a foil to the rambunctious bros. She and Jake meander down a river, tubing at dawn before first classes, discussing life, goals and loves.

The pros and cons of leaving their hometowns for a larger college, becoming small fish in a big pond, sink in as Jake raises a Sisyphean analogy for baseball. Striving over and over for something seemingly meaningless might appear to be a waste of time, but then again, isn’t everything? And isn’t it beautiful that we get to be passionate about anything at all in our time on this world?

Everybody Wants Some!! is Linklater’s greatest achievement in that genre so far.

The tunes — from disco to honkytonk and Van Halen — especially roar from the speakers.

Eclectic and unassuming, this movie defines masculinity not as purely chauvinistic, violent or domineering, but a collection of weirdos who all possess (and to some extent embrace or repress) these qualities in differing amounts. The fact that it never comes out and says any of it, instead choosing to thrill us with bong rips and bar fights, makes Everybody Wants Some!! another addition to a master collection.

Print Headline: Rambling weirdos; Richard Linklater’s newest film finds passion amid silliness and college antics.

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