In 1991, Richard Linklater released Slacker, and with the help of two other films, he changed the idea of cinema to be an inclusive artform, one that could be made by anyone (Sex, Lies, and Videotape and Clerks were the other two). Two years later, in 1993, he released Dazed and Confused.
With this one-two punch, Linklater had a voice that was completely his own. He’s partially in love with intellectual conversations, the sort a philosophical stoner would have, give or take the weed. He has a fascination with time, as some films take place across one day (the Before trilogy, Dazed and Confused), or over a wider span of time that he is able to make feel like a day, as in Everybody Wants Some!!.
Here, Linklater returns with a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, this time taking place in the 1980s, and at a college, three days before school starts. I tell you this, but at the same time, there’s no real need. There’s a plot but the film isn’t necessarily about that, it’s about Jake (Blake Jenner of Glee) and the baseball team he’s about to join, and them hanging out. Simple as that.
Similarly to Slacker, Dazed, and Waking Life, it’s a film composed of vignettes because Linklater cares about the little moments. He’s not interested in the big moments (just look at Boyhood), he’s interested in the quiet simplicity of things, the ones that have a lasting effect on you.
I’ll admit that I didn’t come up with this comparison, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Everybody Wants Some!! (and yes, the two exclamation points are part of the title) reminded me of Magic Mike XXL in the way the camera attempts to show off these athletic bodies. In MMXXL, this is used to compliment its feminist theme of the power of making women happy. EWS!! feels like it’s about masculinity, but not necessarily in a way that disgraces or degrades women, but rather in a way that explores what it means to be a man on a team in the 1980s. While you may look at the film as degrading when only one woman’s name is revealed, as opposed to Cute Coed #1 or Beverly’s Roommate (yes, these unfortunately are the real credits for characters within the film), and how occasionally the women are looked at as objects instead of human, this is sadly within the norm of an 80s picture. The characters with names (read: Men) didn’t all believe in the misogynist nonsense, instead it comes off as urban legends among the men: “Treat women like this, and they’re yours.” Sayings like this appear in some form or another in every decade, (there was a moment almost verbatim in Dazed) but they were not necessarily an expression of a character’s, and thus the film’s, POV (give or take one or two jocks).
While Jake shines in the film, it’s Willoughby (Wyatt Russell) that made me love the film even more. Willoughby is an older teammate who is simply living in these small moments. At one point, at a bar, Jake asks Willoughby (this is paraphrased) if all these weird rules and behaviours are worth it, and Willoughby tells him it kind of is. We (meaning the freshmen and every other teammate) must fit in the crowd first before becoming their own person, or else they won’t be accepted.
Willoughby is incredibly sweet and loving. He reminds me of the friend I always want around me when hanging out. It’s his way of finding beauty in the simple that is wonderful and highlights the soul of the movie.
The film never feels like a false world or a film. The characters and the places are real, and you are on their journey with them. No matter how small their weekend before school is, and how it may truly have no real effect on them over the school year, or in their future, the simple truth is it happened, and Linklater and Willoughby want you to seize those moments because they are always happening.