Monday, 9 May 2016

Everybody Wants Some!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Richard Linklater describes his new, somewhat over-punctuated movie Everybody Wants Some!! as a "spiritual sequel" to Dazed And Confused, his semi-autobiographical, 1976-set meander through a day in the lives of a dozen Texan teens, and that seems a fair assessment. It's now 1980, and while the characters, clothes and music are different, the song remains the same: the bucking bronco ride between boyhood (yep, it's a "spiritual sequel" to that too) and manhood doesn't last long, so grab it by the horns and enjoy it before it flings you off into a world of mortgages, taxes and a lifetime spent trying to recapture the good old days by repeatedly making films about them.

The first day of college - again, remember the end of Boyhood? - is just over three days away, and freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) rocks up on campus, The Knack's My Sharona thumping from his car's speakers like a fanfare announcing not just a new wave of music, but a new decade and a new chapter in Jake's life. It was at this point, seconds into the film, that I suspected I would fall for it; my suspicions were confirmed shortly thereafter when Jake and his crew of new housemates executed a flawless drive-by rapalong to The Sugarhill Gang's Rapper's Delight. A mile-wide smile slapped itself across my chops and hardly budged until the end credits, when it only got wider. (Trust me on this one: Marvel can only dream of a post-credits sting as fantastic as this film's.)

You don't have to be a fan of '80s music to love Everybody Wants Some!!, but it helps. You do have to be a fan of Richard Linklater's style of filmmaking though; don't go looking for convoluted plotting or far-reaching character arcs here. You're spending a few days following the adventures of a group of young men whose principal interests are babes, booze, bongs and baseball, and the pursuit of all these forms what can loosely be called the plot. But there's much more going on beneath the surface: Jake's new digs are in one of two houses containing other baseball-playing freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, and his navigation of the shifting social structures at work in this animal kingdom form his journey through the film.
The guys we're asked to care about here are, for the most part, complete dicks. They're cruel, shallow and ruthlessly competitive; it would come as little surprise if one of the background characters turned out to be a young Donald Trump. But Linklater's skill is to make us care about these jocks - cinema's unloved children - by refusing to box them up in familiar teen movie stereotypes. Each is allowed to gradually reveal himself organically as the story unfolds, and Linklater takes two leisurely hours to do what his film's dirty old uncle Porky's did with basic movie shorthand in its first reel. Admittedly, Linklater isn't in a rush to get to a scene where a fat lady pulls a student's penis through a hole in a shower room wall, so he can afford to take his time.

And so, in a world with only about two actual adults (a baseball coach and a history professor, neither of which are treated with much respect), it's up to the students to determine the men from the boys. Many of the seniors look about 35 thanks to some enviable facial hair, but it's Tyler Hoechlin's McReynolds who's ostensibly the alpha male - although Linklater gleefully turns the concept on its head by dressing him in crop-tops, tight shorts and knee-high socks. In fact most of these pussy-hungry menchildren strut about in outfits offering the least room for manoeuvre while playfully slapping each other on the bottom; the thematic seam of discovering who you really are runs through Everybody Wants Some!! at multiple strata, and one of its many pleasures is only realising some of them days - if not weeks - after viewing.
A love letter to carefree fraternity and formative male bonding set in a pre-AIDS landscape, this is very much a film about #lads being #lads. Girls are temporary distractions for the most part, save Zoey Deutch's Beverly, who - after a promising introduction - doesn't get much more to do than gaze adoringly into Jake's eyes. It's a minor disappointment in an otherwise genuine and heartfelt endeavour, but Linklater is pitching a specifically androcentric (occasionally to the point of homoerotic) experience here, and he successfully buries it firmly in the, uh... wicket keeper's... big glove thing? Yeah, pretty confident that baseball metaphor works.

As that final treat over the end credits sends you home with a doofus grin, you wonder what might become of Everybody Wants Some!!'s semi-bright young things. They've tried everything from disco to country to punk, and it's hard to tell if any of them are any closer to finding themselves than they were when My Sharona pointedly announced a new dawn at the film's opening. But Linklater's intention is not to drone on about tedious lesson-learning or the acquisition of crucial life skills; instead he deliberately leaves his characters suspended in that magic hour when actions had no consequences and anything was possible. That's obviously just the way he prefers to remember his college days, and it's the way you'll want to remember them too.

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