Richard Linklater may be the biggest maker of little films in American cinema. With his regionalist specificity and divining-rod intuition for the emotional core of even the most inconsequential moments, his movies often mask their own perceptiveness. His latest, the ostensible college comedy “Everybody Wants Some!!” is like a stream that looks shallow but once you’re in the middle of it reveals an unforeseen depth.
The stand-in for both Linklater and the audience in entering these overlapping realms of college, the team, the different social spaces, is a newly arrived freshman pitcher named Jake (Blake Jenner). He quickly picks up that as they move through these realms, they are dabbling as if at some kind of personality buffet, trying a bit of this and a touch of that. Yet they also make that feel somehow genuine, an ethos best articulated by the self-styled philosopher and pick-up artist Finnegan (Glen Powell, giving one of the film’s standout performances), who eventually reveals a level of both insecurity and self-understanding that is otherwise masked behind his bluster.
Setting the movie in something of a cultural transitional zone also allows for a wide range of music blasting from car windows, stereo speakers and in local haunts. From the showboating hard rock strut of the Van Halen song from which the movie takes it title to spaced-out stoner jams that sit alongside disco, funk, punk and new wave, music is always percolating in the background of their lives. Something of a show-stopper set piece is five guys in a car bopping together to the early hip-hop of “Rapper’s Delight.”
Eventually these baseball players actually play some baseball, and all their disconnected moments and experiences begin to form a cohesive whole. A self-aggrandizing pitcher played by Juston Street — who provides the film with some of its strongest, and strangest, comic relief — faces off against the team’s star and leader, played by Tyler Hoechlin. They exchange heated words and a fierce confrontation on the field, but moments later come to a moment of mutual, quiet understanding conveyed with only a few words and a convivial pat on the butt (that gesture having been previously played for laughs before suddenly gaining an unexpected, unspoken resonance). Baseball is portrayed as a team sport that nevertheless celebrates the individual, what one player calls the “inner strange,” where the idiosyncratic and esoteric can still contribute to something larger.
“Dazed and Confused” had a less centralized story, as there was a wider swath of characters across grades and social spheres that it showcased as co-leads, including scenes featuring the experiences of girls outside the view of guys. In comparison, “Everybody Wants Some!!” feels slightly diminished: By sticking so close to the experiences of a team of ballplayers it is often trapped with the 1980 attitudes of a group of young men and the way they talk and act about women when on their own. While his players do show an at-times nascent sensitivity, Linklater stumbles with some gratuitous T&A and an incongruous scene of female mud-wrestling.
Actress Zoey Deutch is sweet as a girl pursued by Jake, but as the only significant female role it winds up feeling slight. If Linklater hadn’t gotten the boy-girl divide so spot-on in “Dazed and Confused,” the internal conflict over the depiction of women and men in “Everybody Wants Some!!” wouldn’t feel so glaring.
“Everybody Wants Some!!”
Running Time: 1 hour and 56 minutes.
Rated R for language throughout, sexual content, drug use and some nudity.
At the AMC Century City 15, Arclight Hollywood and the Landmark.
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