Everybody Wants Some!! is a comedy written and directed by Richard Linklater, which is the good news, but it’s set among baseball jocks at a Texas college in 1980, which may be the less good news. Your enjoyment of the film may depend not on Linklater’s abilities, which are there for all to see — Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, Boyhood — but on how much time you wish to spend with these dudes anyhow. They drink and party, party and drink, and drive around town tooting at girls in short shorts who are just short shorts as they aren’t given any actual dialogue except in one trying instance. I was fed up of them all by the end, I have to say — and rather pleased to get rid.
It’s the weekend before the fall semester when Jake (Blake Jenner, who is one of those strong-jawed Ben Affleck types) arrives at the off-campus house he will share with his new teammates. (Jake’s on a baseball scholarship.) Jake is a conduit, our eyes and ears, and he arrives as some of his housemates are feeding a hose from the garden into a mattress in an attempt to create a waterbed, even though shagging on a waterbed may be over-rated. ‘It’s like having sex with a girl on top of a really fat girl,’ notes one. (I laughed; I am not always an old feminist grump — I once took nearly a whole hour off.)
There are nine guys in all, so this is less a bromance, more a bro-orgy (brorgy?) as they party, drink, drink, party, chase girls, shoot the breeze, drink, party, have sex, shift allegiances, punch each other on the shoulder, do some weed, drive around town tooting at bum cheeks (given the shortness of the short shorts, there is much bum cheek on show), listen to LPs, and primp themselves for the next party which, because it’s 1980, means hairdryers are involved, along with high-waisted jeans (yikes!) and Aramis, splashed under arms and down their pants. (Boys, you so know how to spoil us.)They also compete with each other at everything from knuckle-flicking — I think it may be the American equivalent of wet towels; they’re a strange people sometimes, Americans — through to a game of Ping-Pong that, in becoming deadly serious, offers the funniest moment in the film.
Linklater, who himself attended college on a baseball scholarship, has said he wants us to feel 18 again — imagine! — and this is a much more authentic experience than, say, The Inbetweeners, or those Animal House films. There is a lightness of touch. Moments other directors would have talked up aren’t lingered over, which gives a naturalistic feel. It’s nicely loose, with the film seeming to drift. There is pathos as we, and the boys, understand that, as they’re unlikely to turn pro, their time is right now. But although the characters, who are hard to distinguish initially, do develop individual identities, none of them is that interesting. Jake may even be more passive and wishy-washy than Boyhood’s Mason. They’re not the sort of people I would wish to get wasted with over and over, yet Everybody Wants Some!! absolutely demands that we do!! I would also question the casting of Glen Powell as Finnegan, a seasoned pick-up artist and the instigator of many a prank, and Tyler Hoechlin as McReynolds, the bad loser at Ping-Pong, as they seem too old for their roles. I was distracted by this and, having just looked them up, can see that I was right to be distracted, as both are nearing 30, whereas these boys should be what? Eighteen, nineteen, twenty at a push?
But, most distressingly — old feminist grump alert! Old feminist grump alert! — this is exclusively a film of the ogling male gaze. True, it may well reflect the sexism of the characters, if not the sexism of the time, but it doesn’t make it any less problematic. I’m sure women came in all shapes and sizes in 1980, for example, and weren’t all super-hot goers perfectly made in the bum-cheek department. And I’m sure women spoke in 1980, but here only one female is awarded any words, and it’s only towards the end, when Jake hooks up with Beverly (Zoey Deutch), a performing-arts student who is not just drippy and a conventional ingénue, but also exists solely to show Jake in a good light, to show us that he is capable of emotional maturity. Well, thank God for that but it was too little too late, I’m afraid. I’d already had enough of them all by then.