In 2016, the concept of a hyper masculine movie sounds like an immediate turn off. That’s not to decry the turn against what has become modern toxic masculinity, filled with artificial decrying of what is perceived as other and promotion of sexually aggressive and/or violent behavior. However, the brash masculinity of the 1980 that’s being promoted by the characters of writer/director Richard Linklater‘s latest film Everybody Wants Some!! isn’t inherently toxic, but instead liberated and supportive of multiple different avenues. The more toxic elements are called out for the disturbed and off putting actions that they are. Sure, these young college men are often out to try and find sex, but even when coming from an initial ill intent the sense of exploration morphs their goal into something more endearing; living in the moment.
Take our lead Jake, played with an affable charm by Blake Jenner. Jake is new to college and obviously wants to enjoy some carnal pleasure with a willing participant. Yet, he finds a more passionate and enjoyable connection with someone he doesn’t directly sleep with, but instead gets to know through conversation. Zoey Deutch‘s turn provides the right amount of female perspective, showing a young woman with a goal who still feels like having fun and mingling with those she finds engaging. The other female characters range from naive to confident in their stride, mirroring the major male characters in a way that fits the setting rather than simply dismissing them as objects. This sense of perspective is further achieved thanks to Jake being more than willing to hang out with those outside of his hyper masculine set, including his high school buddy who’s deep into the rising punk scene of the time and the honky tonk boot kicking country music fans that spread as a fad of the era. Through Jake’s eyes, we get a glimpse at not just a universal story of a boy becoming a young adult, but also at one isolated moment in the American cultural landscape. A time when disco is in its twilight days and the corporate excess of the 1980s is just on the horizon. Linklater always manages to capture a sense of time with his films, whether they be period pieces or a postcard of the time they were shot.
That placement in time feeds into that crucial theme of living in the now that permeates throughout Everybody Wants Some!!, one that is clearly displayed through the other members of his Texas college baseball team to varying degrees. Some like the arrogant Jay (a contemptibly laughable Juston Street) attempt to utilize this philosophy to selfishly further their pursuits without any human concern for those around him. Others like Finnegan (played with effortlessly laid back charm by Glen Powell) try to adapt to whatever situation with gusto and a desire to see what happens in the moment. Their interest in baseball does take a disappointing backseat for the majority of the run time, but the actual sport is secondary to the comradery their antics builds as they live life to the fullest. It’s a breath of fresh air to see men on screen linger in an appreciation of each other without the low hanging fruit of gay panic, where they can lie around basking in the unfiltered glory of their youth without aggressive judgment or unnecessarily harsh hazing. Linklater lets us soak in their unapologetically sweating bodies in a way that calls more attention to a female gaze and brotherly attention without cheap fear of “worrying they might look gay.” It’s just a bunch of dudes enjoying their time without being excessively prickish to one another.
Of course, this largely has to do with the world Everybody Wants Some!! takes place in. These young men live in an Austin, Texas of 1980 that’s largely free of homophobia and racism, one that I can’t speak to the accuracy of given my complete lack of living experience. It’s a utopia of reckless abandon that’s largely free of consequence. In fact, the only true consequences inbetween the fun moments of hanging out involve those trying to hold onto something that isn’t there. Whether they’re trying to achieve a lofty goal through belligerent self indulgence or attempting to keep the past alive far longer than it can contain, these characters show the main expression of the title. Everybody Wants Some!! isn’t just a the name of a popular Van Halen song of the time – one of many that trumpet loudly through our eardrums on a consistent basis – but a statement of truth for the nirvana of early college daze. The type of daze Linklater teased over two decades ago with the appropriately titled last-day-of-high-school shenanigan escapade comedy Dazed and Confused. Now, he continues that thread to its natural progression; the sense of early freedom that the weekend before college could only provide.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Cans of Lonestar