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School Of Jock: Everybody Wants Some!! Reviewed
Patrick Gamble , May 13th, 2016 09:35

Patrick Gamble reviews Richard Linklater's latest 'Hangout' movie, Everybody Wants Some!!

Richard Linklater has merited his reputation as one of contemporary America’s most fascinating auteurs. His eclectic back catalogue isn’t defined by an immediately recognisable aesthetic, but through a longstanding fascination with time and identity. With Dazed And Confused Linklater mastered the ‘hangout’ movie, whilst the formally ambitious Boyhood captured the relationship between the passage of time and the development of character. However, it was the ’Before’ Trilogy, and how the evolving relationship of Jesse and Celine articulated the growing fear of mortality that accompanies aging that cemented Linklater’s reputation as one of modern cinema's great observers. Everybody Wants Some!!, an '80s set college baseball movie based on the director’s own booze soaked memories of teenage philandering and on-field camaraderie continues Linklater’s preoccupation with time and identity, yet sadly lacks the emotional intelligence that so often informs his work.

Billed as a ‘spiritual sequel’ to Dazed And Confused, a similar richly conceived pastiche aesthetic is applied here too. It’s four years later and the film opens with a close-up of a car radio as The Knack’s ‘My Shorona’ blares from the speakers. Behind the wheel is Jake (Blake Jenner), a wide-eyed freshman off to college on a sports scholarship, his car loaded with boxes of clothes and vinyl LPs. He arrives three days before classes start at the ramshackle fraternity house he’ll share with his fellow baseball players. The house is off campus so Head Coach Gordon (Jonathan Breck) lays down the ground rules; “no alcohol on the premises and no girls upstairs!” However, it takes a matter of hours for both these rules to be broken and what transpires is a non-stop, three-day party. At first Jake struggles making the leap from being a big fish at high school to a college freshman. He’s a little shy and wet behind the ears, yet with every chug of beer and every new friendship forged he grows in confidence.

For a film about a college baseball team there’s very little sporting action in Everybody Wants Some!!, with Linklater far more concerned with the bonding rituals of these young men. There’s a bong session where the conversation evolves from VHS tapes of The Twilight Zone to experiments with telepathy and copious scenes of homoerotic roughhousing including a hazing initiation that recalls the paddling sessions dished out by the seniors in Dazed And Confused. Throughout the last few days before class starts this pack of alpha-males relentlessly tease one another in a constant struggle for dominance, yet they’re ultimately united by a shared goal – their desire to get laid.

Jake’s house mates sport scrawny moustaches with brightly coloured synthetic shirts and short shorts, whilst the smell of cheap cologne and unbridled testosterone is almost palpable. The film’s fantastic production design is enhanced further by cinematographer Shane F. Kelly’s sun-drenched photography, encasing the film in an inviting, almost utopian cocoon of nostalgia. Sadly the egos of these jocks are almost as large as their shirt lapels and although their bravado is initially charming, it soon becomes tiresome.

Ultimately Everybody Wants Some!! is a film about the search for identity within the liminal space of adolescence. Each character is tied by some unexpressed duty to play the part of the archetypal jock, yet some are clearly more uncomfortable adopting this persona than others. Each night, Jake and his fellow housemates go out on the town, first they frequent a '70s style disco, then a country line-dancing bar and finally a punk gig, trying on a different identity at each club. Midway through the punk show Jake, dressed-up in a sleeve-less t-shirt and ripped jeans, has a moment of clarity, confessing “it all sort of begs the question of who we are?” There is a gentle undercurrent of profundity here, after all a group of competitive, privileged and predominantly white athletes makes for a fascinating insight into the forthcoming Regan administration and changing attitudes in America during the rise of neoliberalism. All of this is wrapped up in the usual philosophising about the temporality of existence that audience’s have come to expect from Linklater’s ‘hangout’ movies, yet this time the impact is diluted by the continuous locker-room posturing.

Jake finally receives the guidance he yearns for when he meets fellow freshman Beverly (Zoey Deutch). Despite being told early on “The girls can be as big a sluts as the guys.” Jake manages to meet the only girl amongst the conveyor belt of scantily clad women who frequent the campus who isn’t merely a decorative adornment to be gawped at and chased. Beverly is the closest thing in the film to a well-rounded female character. However, unlike Jake who arrived in Texas on a sports scholarship she’s here to study drama. The pair’s relationship takes its initial steps during a split-screen phone conversation that shows just how alien Beverly presence is in Jake’s world. The forbidden love affair between an athlete and a drama major would normally add some conflict to proceedings, yet those familiar with Linklater’s work will already know this isn’t his style and instead she acts as a gateway into the weird and wonderful world of the arts. It would have been nice to see Beverly dampen the misogyny of the film’s locker room banter, instead she ultimately becomes a trophy to be wooed as well as an excuse to transplant Jake’s friends into the wacky, out-there parties hosted by her fellow drama students.

Nobody captures the apathetic ennui of youth like Linklater, yet he also understands how time is like an hourglass, slowly ebbing away and acting as a constant reminder of mortality. Although his films adhere to sequential narratives, his characters are often governed by a regressive clock, one where the past is untouched and demystified; a safe space in which to answer the questions posed by the future. Yet unlike Dazed And Confused, where multiple perspectives allowed the film’s nostalgia to give way to a broader study of yearning and belonging, Everybody Wants Some!! is clearly informed by the director’s own experiences. Linklater, like Jake was a high school baseball player who went to college on a scholarship, and the film feels far more emphatically autobiographical than his previous work. Unlike previous studies of identity and the constraints time places on it, Jake’s experience comes across as the reflections of a director who, now in his fifties, may finally have become victim to the eroding effects of time which typically torment his characters.

Everybody Wants Some!! is in cinemas today