Much like the Van Halen song from which the film takes its title, Everybody Wants Some!! would superficially appear to be more interested in unabashed fun than in tackling weighty philosophical issues. However, there is a point to the frivolity and machismo that Linklater has chosen to focus on here, it’s just deftly hidden under an ample dose of partying.
Less a “spiritual sequel” to Linklater’s directorial debut, Dazed and Confused, than a syzygy to that film’s aggrandizement of the adolescent outsider, Everybody is an exemplar of Linklater’s auteurist oeuvre in the purest possible sense. This film could only have been made by Linklater, not because another director couldn’t have executed it just as competently, but because no other director that comes to mind could have generated the level of pathos that Linklater achieves from a collection of characters that would seem utterly reprehensible on paper. While Dazed identified strongly with its cast of misfits, Everybody reads more like a victory lap for the popular and good-looking jocks of the world. The film is not particularly sensitive to women or minorities, but this never comes across as mean-spirited marginalization on the part of its central cast. That most of the cast personify oversexed white males, privilege might have made their constant quest for carnal consummation seem crass were it not for Linklater’s attention to their development as more than broad-stroke caricatures, and it is this level of emotional awareness that saves the film from becoming a one-note joke of a period piece.
Linklater’s obvious affinity for his dramatis personae likely stems from his time playing baseball in college, and I can say from my own experience as a collegiate athlete that his depiction of the testosterone-fueled tribalism is largely accurate (I’ve broken up my share of bar fights for teammates, and once helped to fill an ill-advised waterbed in a scene eerily similar to one depicted early in the film). That said, this is not a film about baseball or athletics writ-large. Only one athletic practice is depicted, and it has more to do with the movie’s exploration of male bonding and dominance rituals than with the sport itself; instead, this is a film about nostalgia. In a telling allusion, a Twilight Zone-obsessed elder statesman of the team is named Willoughby, a reference to an episode from the first season of the show in which a harried ad executive is magically transported to a small 19th century town where he enjoys a bucolic, slower-paced life. This is a significant hint at what the writer-director is trying to achieve with this work, and though the narrative structure may be too episodic to ever settle on a definitive point, the final product is remarkably affective.
If Linklater’s intention is to transport the audience to a simpler time and place, he made a prudent decision in choosing to cast predominantly unknown actors, as the lack of prior association with the faces on screen facilitates a sense of novelty on encountering the characters they portray, thereby enhancing identification with the protagonist’s entrance into an unfamiliar world. Glenn Powell delivers a standout turn as Finnegan, the team’s resident know-it-all/Chatty Cathy, but the entire cast capably carries the weight of the film without falling prey to the usual pitfalls of an inexperienced ensemble. Linklater even manages to coax a passable performance out of Zoey Deutch, who was terrible in Dirty Grandpa earlier this year, a further testament to the director’s capacity for setting his players at ease and extracting maximum impact from any given actor’s limited palette.
Everybody is not without its drawbacks, but for a film with no story to speak of, it is better in many ways than it has any right to be. What could have turned into a sexist wish-fulfillment, instead becomes a sort of cinematic tone poem about the malleability of adolescent identity and the limitless potentialities of youth, all without taking itself too seriously. Everybody might not be for everybody, but it is a hell of a lot of fun. And who doesn’t want some of that? Rated R for language throughout, sexual content, drug use and some nudity.