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Non-Review Review: Everybody Wants Some!!

Richard Linklater is a director fascinated by the time in between.

This seems like a very obvious statement. After all, Linklater is still (relatively) fresh from a slew of nominations for Boyhood, a film that was famous for being shot with the same cast over the course of years and allowing the audience to literally watch its central character grow and develop. Many critics argued that the film was nothing more than a gimmick, a piece of performance art more than a narrative. Of course, the gimmick was largely the point of the film. Linklater is a director fascinated with the passage of time; Boyhood pushes that to the limit.

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Of course, it is also interesting what Linklater does with his sense of time. Many of Linklater’s films unfold against the backdrop of a deadline. Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight build their deadlines into the title. Dazed and Confused follows a bunch of students on the last day of school. Everybody Wants Some!! operates with a literal countdown the ticks from the moment that Jake arrives at his college dorm to the start of his college classes. In theory, the film runs up against the clock.

However, Linklater’s deadlines tend to be arbitrary. His films are never race-to-the-finish thrillers as one might expect. Rarely are those precious few hours and minutes filled with important life-changing decisions and profound conversations. Instead, they are filled with a celebratory glimpse of the mundane, more extraordinary for their ordinariness. If anything, they feel like collective pauses; they are a deep breath before jumping back into life, a moment taken out of time, the last few hours before the clock really starts ticking.

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In many ways, this is what Linklater captures so well about the college experience in Everybody Wants Some!! This college comedy unfolds in the autumn of 1980, in that curious gap that exists between the seventies and the eighties populated by the sounds of Hot Chocolate and Blondie. It is a transitory phase, where our young college heroes still attend discos at a brightly-coloured disco labelled “the Sound Machine” and complain about wasting hundreds of dollars on the arcade version of Space Invaders. It is the sort of temporal lacuna with which Linklater is fascinated.

Everybody Wants Some!! takes place before the start of class, with Jake arriving at college on a sports scholarship. Repeatedly over the course of the film, the audience is treated to the date and time, often down to the minute. Jake does not arrive in the late afternoon or at 4pm; he arrives a “4:06”, a reminder that every minute counts. This sense is reinforced with a countdown click that ticks towards the “start of class.” Initially, it is days and hours, but – as the deadline approaches – it includes minutes. Time is flying by. Time is precious.

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However, there is no impending catastrophe, no looming deadline. Everybody Wants Some!! doesn’t even construct an arbitrary objective for its characters to accomplish within that time. Jake’s friends are not hoping to throw the biggest party the campus has ever seen, and Jake is not hoping to reconcile with a lost love before time moves on. There is no looming baseball game, no surprise test. The deadline that drives Everybody Wants Some!! is remarkable for its lack of urgency. Instead, it is just time ticking by, as time does.

Everybody Wants Some!! beautifully captures the joyous idleness of college life, the sense of freedom and exploration that comes from venturing out of the confines of secondary school into a much broader world, albeit one still well insulated from the responsibilities and demands of the so-called “real world.” Repeatedly over the course of the film, characters emphasise that the new social order takes some getting used to. Jake was the best at what he did in his own high school, but is now surrounded by people operating on his level.

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There is a youthful idealism to Everybody Wants Some!!, a romantic notion of what college represents and what it should be. It is a chance to grow and develop, to interact with others as peers who share common interests and abilities, to broaden horizons and embrace possibilities. Jake’s friend Finn seems willing to embrace any philosophy going, rejecting the idea of luck on one hand while readily quoting his own astrological profile the next. At another point, Jake and his friends wander from a disco to a barn dance to a punk rock concert to a drama student party.

Set in the increasingly distant past, Everybody Wants Some!! is an idealise memory of the moment that exists between adolescence and adulthood, a moment at which anything seems possible and at which any problem might be approached with an open mind. Everybody Wants Some!! presents college as the ultimate “safe space”, where a person might wander between different tastes and different subcultures with ease, trying everything before settling into their own personal tastes.

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Responsible adults are almost entirely absent from Everybody Wants Some!!, barring one grown-up consciously chasing the freedom afforded by college and the baseball coach. During his first scene, Linklater introduces the coach by shooting around him; shooting below the neck as if to emphasise the students. That is very much intentional, making it clear that the coach is just a guest in this world. After laying down some rules that are promptly disregarded, the coach disappears from the film; save for one scene where he appears in the distance.

The adults in Everybody Wants Some!! are so rare as to be practically mythological. The gang beguile one another with stories about a magical talent scout who scopes out the early practice sessions; they true to spot the mysterious figure during a trial game, only emphasising how rare it is to see an adult in this college world. Towards the end of the film, a college professor scrawls the message “frontiers are where you find them” on the blackboard, it seems a succinct mission statement for college life; the joy of probing boundaries on an individual’s own terms.

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Linklater has assembled a superlative cast that shares an incredible chemistry. The group of relative unknowns works perfectly together, creating a team of college baseball players who are immediately and irresistibly likeable. Blake Jenner, Glen Powell, J. Quinton Johnson and Zoey Deutch deserve particular credit, but the entire ensemble elevates characters who might otherwise seem like generic archetypes. Everybody Wants Some!! is a “hang around” comedy, but it has the luxury of a cast that it is fun to hang around with.

Everybody Wants Some!! is a movie with a spectacular understanding of college, a nostalgic and romantic ode to that shelter gap that exists between growing up and grown up. Time well spent, even if it is not spent on anything particularly important.

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4 Responses

  1. “Everybody Wants Some!!” tried our patience so much that we still regret not walking out. Enjoyed reading your review, though.

  2. I really liked it, thanks for the review.
    It seems to be a fine line in making these movies with no ostensible plot. I saw Hologram for the King, which isn’t too concerned with plot, but it had nothing else going for it so I found it boring and empty of substance.
    Everybody Wants Some!! is similarly devoid of much plot development but because of the strength of the time setting and the interplay between the characters, the absence of plot becomes incidental.
    Even though the time setting was before my time in college, it made me reminiscent of a time when you had to sit and talk to people and hang out and do nothing, as opposed to the faux relationships people have on their phones these days.
    This seemed to be all about everyone having a good time and not taking anything too seriously, because as you say the grown ups are taking care of everything so it’s almost your responsibility to get out there and do dumb stuff for a while.
    A lot of fun, enjoyed the music, enjoyed the performances. Refreshing in a way that I didn’t know anybody in it.

    • I think that’s a good observation about how the film is essentially about passing (rather than wasting) time in a way that isn’t really possible today.

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