In baseball parlance, Everybody Wants Some!! is right in my wheelhouse. It is set in 1980 (the last three days of August, to be precise), when I was the exact same age as the characters. It is focused on baseball players (although I had a brief, ignominious baseball career, one year of Little League, I have always loved the game) and it has the kind of dialogue I love, a loose, rambling style in which characters talk about everything and nothing simultaneously.
Written and directed by Richard Linklater, he has called it a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused, his 1993 film about the last day of high school in a Texas town in 1976. In some ways it is also a sequel to Boyhood, which ended with Linklater’s protagonist on his first weekend of college, where we begin here.
Everybody Wants Some!! does not have much of a plot. Jake (Blake Jenner) is the audience’s way in to the world of these players, who live in donated houses off campus. He is a freshman pitcher (he finds that the hitters don’t much care for pitchers) and he, and we, are quickly introduced to the menagerie of characters; McReynolds, the great hitter and preening cock-of-the-walk (Tyler Hoechlin); Finn, the loquacious philosopher (Glenn Powell), Willoughby, the California hippie and bong enthusiast (Wyatt Russell), and Autry, nicknamed Beuter (William Britton), the hayseed who is constantly on the phone with his girlfriend back home. Jake quickly fits in, mostly because he takes the ribbing and gentle hazing good-naturedly (a gag involves him unknowingly lifting his face ino the nether regions of another freshmen). They are all likeable and a gas to be around, except for Niles (Juston Street), the pitcher who claims to have thrown a ball 95 miles an hour and calls himself “Raw Dog.”
Basically we are in these guys’ company for two hours as they have an odyssey through the pop culture of the time. The music, as usual in a Linklater film, is spot on (I came home and immediately bought the soundtrack). Jake arrives in an Oldsmobile 442 with The Knack’s infectious “My Sharona” playing on the radio. Later, the boys will sing along to “Rapper’s Delight,” and Willoughby, who favors Pink Floyd, will put down Van Halen (who provided the title) as corporate. The guys will visit a disco, where they wear floral-patterned shirts and tight pants, a country bar, where they will dance to “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” and a punk venue, where the band sings a punk version of the Gilligan’s Island theme song. The film ends with classes beginning, and the Cars playing “Good Times Roll.” Perfect.
The only real plot thread is Jake’s attempts to woo a girl, winningly played by Zoey Deutsch, as the kind of college girl that any guy would give their eye teeth for. What’s great about their relationship is that it develops naturally, and you can see that they actually like each other, unlike films where couples only get together because the script demands it. Deutsch invites Jake to a party put on by her tribe, the theater arts crowd, and the team comes along. All the artsy-fartsy stuff is on display, like people dressed as Alice in Wonderland characters, but the players don’t mock it or disparage it–they just go with the flow, and this bonhomie gives the film a kind of zest that defies you to dislike it.
The performers, to me, are all unknowns and all talented. I especially liked Powell, but he has the best character to play, a guy who pontificates joyfully on all subjects, and can be seen reading Kerouac while smoking a pipe. Russell, who is the offspring of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, makes a great stereotypical Californian, who sets the bong record for smoke inhalation and goes through his pitching motion in the nude. Hoechlin is the kind of guy who gets enraged at losing a ping-pong game, but has such a great swing that he can slice a pitched ball in twain with an ax (whoever taught these guys to play ball did a great job).
There are so many great lines in the film that I’ve forgotten most of them, and will have to see it again. A sure bet to be on my year’s best of list.