Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!  has been advertised as the “spiritual sequel” to the filmmaker’s own Dazed and Confused , and in an impersonal sense, it picks up right where that movie left off—in a car driven by a teenager, with the radio’s knob turned all the way up. The freewheeling finale of Dazed, which was released in ’93 and set in ’76, vaguely suggested all the life that its teenage characters had in front of them. Everybody Wants Some!!—which considers a weekend of hanging out among baseball players at a South Texas university circa late August 1980, hence the “sort of sequel” sales pitch—is not the destination those kids were headed towards. It’s more like a stop at a roadside bar made early along the way, not much gets figured out, but everything gets sloppy. Linklater’s production company has maintained the same moniker throughout his career, and for this film, it could’ve been an alternate title: “detour.”
The song on that radio is “My Sharona” (the first of innumerable era-appropriate needle drops), the driver in that car is Jake (Blake Jenner,) and his own collegiate detour leads him to his new team’s frat house, where he’s among six new recruits on the squad. The other newbies include beer-drinking cowboy Billy Autrey (Will Brittain), freshman burnout Brumley (Tanner Kalina), stoner-philosopher-pitcher Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), pro-scouted phenom Jay Niles (Juston Street,), and explicitly-oblivious Plummer (Temple Baker). They’re all quickly indoctrinated into the intra-male conversations that dominate the place—ruthless insults followed quickly by moral support, inside jokes characterized by debauched punchlines, everything punctuated by a dugout-appropriate slap on the ass, altogether a highly astute depiction of athletic-male camaraderie—courtesy the teammates who’ve already put their years in. The movie surveys them over three consecutive days, and in that time they convene at disco clubs, rock concerts, line dances, baseball practice, a “theater party,” and at the frat house itself, alternatively discussing their ambitions regarding baseball and sex, spiking each hour with drinks, joints, and double-chambered bong rips. It’s a hangout movie with a high blood alcohol concentration—a descendant of National Lampoon’s most famous off-campus romp, and all the guy-gang comedies that followed it.
Then a woman walks into the picture, throwing that whole subgenre categorization into flux. Her name’s Beverly (Zoey Deutch), and she takes to Jake during a five-man pickup attempt (liking the “cute quiet one” in the backseat, but maybe just because that’s the easiest way to shut the other four up). Over the weekend, he tries to spin this offhanded comment into a more tangible hookup, first stalking her to figure out her address, then leaving flowers with his phone number cheekily attached, then waiting by his bulky landline for the callback, then taking Beverly out on the type of adventures often seen in youth-minded romantic comedies of the 1980s: tubing on the local water, dressing up for a flirtatious costume party, and collectively rhapsodizing about the inherently political nature of rock ’n’ roll music. It’s all very John Hughes-ian. (Deutch provides a direct connection to that lineage, in fact—her father is Howard Deutch, director of Hughes-produced efforts like Some Kind of Wonderful  and Pretty in Pink .) And in structuring his film, Linklater creates a competition between these two forms. Jake deconstructs his bro time when he’s with Beverly, often trying to pinpoint a philosophical basis for his sports-playing alpha-maleness; then endures pointed tear-downs of his romantic prowess when he’s back with the boys, who miss no opportunity to make jokes about his perceived softness. In other words, the film travels between Animal House  and Sixteen Candles , with each of ’80s cinema’s defining comedic modes—the gross-out guy comedy and the sugar-sweet romcom—getting to offer a metatextual critique of its counterpart.
This description risks making Everybody Wants Some!! sound like a needlessly heady experiment in genre criticism, which it most certainly is not. One could make the case that 70s-era AIP-produced teen movies were a major influence on the structure and antics of Dazed and Confused, but that’s not something you’re thinking about while you watch it. And watching Everybody Wants Some!!, you needn’t work hard either. Linklater’s characters have a habit of articulating his themes at the most opportune moments; Jake talks about having an “identity crisis” after this gang of post-revolution teenagers travels to a punk club; while another tangent (about tangents) deliberately articulates Linklater’s central narrative obsessions. Meanwhile the constant cycling between sets and musical genres offers the filmmaker’s retrospective hot-take on a decade rife with cultural posing (Linklater recently programmed a series of standout 80s cinemas at an Austin repertory theater, named “Jewels in the Wasteland,” which adequately describes the vision of mass culture seen here.) And the last scene offers a rather damning self-critique of male tunnel vision, to further curdle the point-of-view—written again in the film’s surface text, first in chalk, and then in a close-up.
But on a moment-by-moment basis, Linklater is interested in one of the same subjects he’s always been interested in: the textural and psychological detail of human interaction. In Everybody Wants Some!!, and in most of the other movies he’s both written and directed, he considers the way aspirations and repressions are laid bare by conversation (one new teammate imitating a veteran’s speech pattern, one roommate manipulating another to make sure their sexual scorecards stay even), the way that environment dictates behavior (reflected quite literally in the film’s costume design, which swaps out for each new setting), and even the way that literal positioning can reveal something about character (Linklater catches as many as 11 individual people in one locker room composition, and I’ll be damned if the blocking doesn’t reveal something about the nature of every single one of them).
There are a couple of unconnected images in Boyhood that contorted me into something resembling deep emotion, and I’ve always suspected that if I could figure out why that was, I would understand something more about Linklater’s cinema. The shots themselves are rhyming compositions of Ellar Coltrane’s boy sitting at a computer in a public school; the first one, filmed in the early 2000s, has him using an oversize desktop on a bulky table while bantering with a teacher; the second, from recent years, saw him operating a slimline computer from a much sleeker desk, while trading meaner insults with a peer. Something about the contrast of the second shot with the first, the inexorable movement of time wreaking havoc on everything, from Apple products to tenor and slang, was inexplicably representative. It encompassed the whole of what Linklater’s growing oeuvre works to reveal. He’s a filmmaker obsessed with quotidian details, and an artist imbued with an appreciation for the present tense in which they occur in. And the inherent unacknowledged tragedy—the melancholy behind the whole project—is that cinema can’t help but obsess over present-tense details once they’re already past.
So if the main character of Everybody Wants Some!! inherits the lineage of his counterpart from Dazed—the moppy-hair pitcher, just like Jake, who shares his passive speaking patterns, his philosophical outlook, his understated way with women, and so on—then he also inherits the lineage of Coltrane’s Boyhood character, who played in all the same playgrounds. And Jake’s lineage would then, in turn, be inherited by the Ethan Hawke character in Linklater’s three Before Sunrise films, who provides the older angle on the director’s likely-autobiographical protagonist autotype, speaking the exact same language as his chronological forebears. Which makes this whole filmography into a collection of half-remembered, half-fictionalized moments in life’s time, entirely fragile except for the film that they’re stored on. Those quotidian details take on the importance of an epic, because their very depiction indicates their enormous importance to one person’s development. This one seemingly slight weekend at college may just be a stop on the trip, but the journey itself is growing rather momentous.
EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! RATED R. OPENS FRIDAY 4.1 AT AMC BOSTON COMMON AND KENDALL SQUARE CINEMA.