Richard Linklater, the undisputed king of the hangout movie, follows up his 12-year project Boyhood with this so-called “spiritual successor” to his 1993 breakout Dazed and Confused which pioneered a genre and introduced the world to a sea of fresh new faces. Like that film, Everybody Wants Some!! places its focus on feeling and mood over a concrete sense of story and narrative but its setting and characters are more limited compared to the sprawling high school landscape of Dazed. As that’s the case, it’s not as universal or open-minded as its big brother but there’s still plenty of fun to be had with this new band of hooligans.
We’re introduced to college freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner) prior to his first week of classes as he moves into the house where he will staying with other members of the school’s baseball team. There he meets his new roommates, including seniors McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) and Finn (Glen Powell), who run the athlete residence in a way that closely emulates the shenanigans of other on-campus fraternities. The film follows the players as they engage in various forms of juvenile behavior and pause from time to time to wax philosophical on the fortuitous nature of their situation.
Though this group of affable jocks doesn’t provide the kind of distinct and varied character base present in Dazed, it does allow Linklater to hone in on more prominent themes surrounding masculinity and male ego. A recurring motif throughout the film is the seriousness with which the character treat the inane activities in which they all participate. This juxtaposition is mainly played for laughs (save for a tense ping pong match between Jake and McDaniels) but as one of the fellow teammates points out, this compulsion towards competition is what makes their baseball team so highly regarded on a national level.
This kind of push-pull male bonding is representative of the film’s main through-line about how college is a landscape for one to establish themselves both as individuals and as a part of a larger group. As we are first introduced to the guys, they seem almost intentionally homogeneous by design but as the story progresses, they distinguish themselves through small moments that show flashes of their unique personalities. There’s not a strong urgency towards traditional character development because the cast is meant more to act as a crystallized version of an ideal college experience rather than a realistic depiction of people who struggle and succeed through life’s challenges.
In fact, Linklater makes it clear that Jake and his crew need not worry about much at all as their youth and status on campus provide them with a cushy collective existence. The film’s carefree spirit that mirrors this attitude can lead to some meandering storytelling and stagnant pacing but it’s ultimately crucial to the type of laid-back vibe that it captures so well. It may be a drag for those looking for something more tightly structured but if you’re, as the tagline states, “here for a good time, not for a long time”, then Everybody Wants Some!! delivers.