Everybody Wants Some is an aimless but enjoyable comedy which charms while failing to excite.
The latest film from Boyhood director Richard Linklater, Everybody Wants Some follows a group of college baseball players in the days leading up to the start of the academic year. There is little in the way of dramatic tension as the story tends to bounce around from party to party, with the only real dramatic thrust being a slight romantic side-plot, into which neither the audience nor the film itself try to get too invested. In the hands of a lesser director, the film wouldn’t be able to sustain such a light premise, but with Linklater’s keen ear for dialogue and his ability to create likeable characters, Everybody Wants Some entertains throughout.
The characters are, to some extent, the litany of archetypes you would expect from a college baseball film. The stoic, all-American protagonist Jake is played amply by Blake Jenner; this character’s essential passivity allows for the other characters’ eccentricities to shine. Wyatt Russell plays Willoughby, a bearded and laidback stoner, whilst Zoey Deutch puts in a winning performance as an arts student and the main love interest. The roster of characters at times verges on cliché, but the writing, filming, and acting are all done so assuredly as to elevate them.
“a pleasant and genuinely funny distraction, but lacking in any particular meaning”
The film has been criticised for being unapologetically male-centric; indeed, the ‘college bros’ setting almost seems to necessitate a certain element of chauvinism. For a director that has, in the past, excelled in producing strong female characters (one only need look back as recently as Patricia Arquette’s role in Boyhood for a stellar example), the sole substantial presence of Deutch’s character is perhaps a little disappointing. At the same time, it would be wrong to accuse Linklater of overindulging in the college boy ‘frat’ mentality. The rank male competitiveness and the alpha male pretentions of the baseball squad are frequently the butt of the joke. The fun, the expectation, and the bonhomie of starting college are all on full display, but the film stays away from full-on glamorisation. Ultimately, it is the restrained ambition of the project which keeps the characters from grating. They are given room to breathe, room to be laughed at, but aren’t forced into any greater narrative roles (for instance, the film lacks any sort of villain) which would otherwise make their artifice creak.
However, this same restraint of ambition which allows the characters to flourish and develop is also Everybody Wants Some‘s chief shortcoming. The film clocks in at a reasonably lengthy 1 hour 56 minutes, a running time which the thinly stretched plot fails to fully justify. While it is a wholly enjoyable two hours, spent in the company of genuinely amusing characters, there are self-evident shortfalls to its aimlessness. It will go down as one of Linklater’s minor films, a pleasant and genuinely funny distraction, but lacking in any particular meaning, or the sheer ambition of his Before trilogy, or indeed Boyhood.
Much of the film is spent with its protagonists trying on different identities. They move from scene to scene, adjusting their tastes in music and dress, caught up in the universal adolescent search for identity. While its characters are unsure of who they are, the film itself is deadly certain. The complete competence of the hands at work behind the scenes ensure that this otherwise unexceptional tale of starting college is particularly, enjoyably slick; there may not be much to digest but the taste it leaves is undoubtedly sweet.
Image: Paramount Pictures 2016