I would describe Linklater’s Texas nostalgia piece, Everybody Wants Some!!, as set in the 70’s, meant to feel like it was made in the 70’s and really amazing if you’re not female or a minority.
This may sound harsh and I wish it didn’t because to an extent I enjoyed the film. It’s an exploration into the camaraderie of a college baseball team the last weekend before the school year begins. It’s a group character study of these big personalities and how their different quirks intertwine to create the unique and powerful team that they are. No one is a stereotype and break most “jock” conventions. The striking nature of this film is that there is no conflict and you’re just watching the mix of new and old friends talk about baseball and pussy. It feels like an extended pilot that was reworked into a feature. This movie is two hours of character development, setting up future scenarios like breaking house rules, a budding romance and the clashes of ego with the team’s hierarchy. I like that these characters are fully formed enough that I can imagine and would want to see what shenanigans they could get into but I’m robbed of any of that actually happening. Instead I’m watching a testosterone driven weekend of parties, disco and batting practice.
Now I am a woman (spoiler alert) and I saw this with my friend Jorge who is Latino. We both went to High School together in Houston. He even attended college in Austin and we both left this movie feeling that Linklater didn’t make this with us in mind nor does he care. I get that his goal was to create an authentic late 70’s feel and in 1980, there were probably few Latinos in the state attending university and it’s a film about male bonding where women are more like talking vaginas who you must trick into sex. Each night is spent at a different party where the boys adapt to spitting game in new surroundings. The only woman given any dimension is Beverly (Zoey Deutch), who serves as a love interest for the lead Jake (Blake Jenner). She’s a theater major who brings Jake and his compatriots to the community of art students which is just another environment to play in. Their brief romance is a great start if this was a TV show but pretty unsatisfying in furthering the narrative here. The film has one person of color being the black second baseman Dale (J Quinton Johnson) who I was quite charmed by but in a movie where you don’t have to cast celebrities and you can bring on so many newcomers like Johnson, why have them all be white? There would have been no complaint from me if there was more diversity on the team than a token.
A way in which this film could be viewed with is a queer lens as there is rampant homoeroticism in every scene from the expected slap on the butt between players to the short shorts of the decade to the lingering on shots of the near naked form and light touching in the locker room. It’s hard to tell if that’s the inherent nature of sports and a team that is very comfortable around each other or is something to be read into. With scenes like the guys getting ready for the disco and spending hours making sure their hair is perfect and they’ve picked out the right billowy shirt and tight pants, it’s easy to interoperate as gay. Though my aforementioned viewing companion is also gay and did not read these scenes as such. His view was these were boys being boys and this is just the fundamentals of a masculine environment.
This is a film that starts strong but overstays its welcome expected when you have no conflict. It’s fun in the beginning to meet all the dudes as they pull pranks and drink to the soundtrack of classic rock hits but their dickishness and constant ragging on each other soon gets old. It’s a practice in great character writing with competitive behaviors and team mentality but never blossoms beyond some of the philosophical arguments lays out. The next to last scene Jake talks about his college essay being about comparing the greek god Sisyphus to the cycle of training and strive in baseball that may amount to nothing but he finds meaning in it. Conversations like that and the film ending with a teacher writing on the board “Frontiers Are Where You Find Them” is a bit too pretentious and not earned by the hunt for poontang that encompasses most of the driving action. I do agree though that this is a film about discovering what’s important to you, each of these boys are figuring out their identity on the team and within the greater scope of campus. I think some viewers will find this story meaningful and as much as I want to love this film, there’s only so much casual 70’s sexism that I can shrug off. I don’t want to think of this as a companion piece to Dazed and Confused because there’s no Parker Posey or Milla Jovovich to be found. Dazed and Confused is a movie about the 70’s reflecting on highs and lows the decade while Everybody Wants Some!! wishes it was the 70’s but it’s 2016 and I’m going to view it as such.