Friday, April 15, 2016

Review: "Everybody Wants Some!!"

"This is one of the best days of my life ... until tomorrow."

My God, I just loved the hell out of this movie.

Writer/director Richard Linklater is nearly unmatched in his skill at evoking a specific time, place and mood. His 1993 breakout film, "Dazed and Confused," looked at slacker high school kids in Texas circa 1976. Actually, it didn't just examine them, but plopped us right into their midst, attuned us to their vibe, made us feel like part of the crowd.

His newest -- and, I think, best -- film fast-forwards a few years to 1980, as those kids (or ones very much like them) move on to college. "Everybody Wants Some!!" is a haze of partying, drinking, doping, dancing and sex that unexpectedly segues into mystical profundity, as young people grow up fast and start to figure out who they are, even before classes start.

It's also a sports movie, but in the same sense as "Bull Durham," in that the real action happens off the field. We never even glimpse the baseball team at Southern Texas University playing in a game, just a single practice. Yet the sport remains central to the men's identities and outlook.

If it's possible for a movie to be all about sports without actually containing any, then this is it.

This is simply one of the best executions I've ever seen in ensemble acting, both as written in the screenplay by Linklater and played by a huge group of largely unknown actors. Each of the dozen or so players focused upon comes across as distinct and authentic. Even the shy freshman who becomes the target of jokes has his moment in the sun. Even the god-like seniors have instances of shortcomings.

The film is also a tiny bit autobiographical. Linklater played college baseball himself, and knows the rhythms and cadences of the team's speech and behavior like second nature. We see how they constantly bust on each other, turn everything into a competition, chase girls with the abandon of the pre-AIDS era. Yet they're supremely self-aware of their jock-itude, to use a made-up word they would probably embrace if they heard it.

These are the cool kids, but we witness how hard they work to make it look effortless.

You want a summary of the plot? I'm not really sure there is one. Set in the four days before classes begin, we follow the team as they migrant from party to party, prowling for girls, listening to music, smoking weed and dancing to different kinds of music.

They're rock 'n' roll guys in their souls, but disco is what the ladies want to dance to, so they put on their Tony Manero shirts and tight pants and shake their groove thing at the Sound Machine club. After that venue no longer becomes viable (for reasons you'll see), they move their act to the new urban cowboy saloon, and later a punk rock concert and theater student party. They joke about changing their clothes like camouflage to fit in -- wherever there's women, beer and a good time to be had.

I'd like to introduce you to all the characters, but I'd need to start a whole other review. Hours afteward, they're still living inside my head.

Jake (Blake Jenner) is the ostensible main character, a straight-arrow type, pitcher from a small California town. After some obligatory hazing, he's quickly assimilated into the motley crew, though pitchers as a rule are made to stand apart. Their job, after all, is to make them fail at theirs.

McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) and Finnegan (Glen Powell) are the seniors who unofficially run the team, different as night and day but united in their mission to win the championship come spring, and have a good time until then. McReynolds is a genuine pro prospect, strong as a bull and twice as intense. Finnegan is the resident philosopher/philanderer, a man without a plan who can talk himself into or out of any situation -- feminine undergarments, mostly.

There's also the insufferable wacko transfer pitcher (Justo Street) rumored to have a 95 mph fastball; the hick roommate with girlfriend problems (Will Brittain); the even-keeled black guy who takes Jake under his wing (J. Quinton Johnson); and Willoughby, the resident hippie who gives spacey ruminations on telepathy, guitar chord progressions and finding your inner freak.

(It doubtless sounds better after a few deep bong hits.)

Beverly (Zoey Deutch) is the smart girl who arrives at college with a typewriter in her car trunk; she blows off the seniors' enticements but favors Jake with a compliment, which later turns into the start of something.

There's a lot more I'd like to say about "Everybody Wants Some!!", but time and space run short. I haven't even mentioned the early '70s muscle cars the players all drive, the diverse smorgasbord soundtrack of period music, the snug T-shirts with piping on the sleeves and collars that show off the lean bodies. So much to experience, and think about after.

Mostly, what I'd like to do is go see the movie again, right now.

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