'Everybody Wants Some' Would Be Cooler With More Story

Directed by: Richard Linklater; Runtime: 117 minutes
Grade: B-

While Richard Linklater's body of work has received generally widespread acclaim, nearly every film he's constructed relies on some kind of gimmick to hold interest, whether it's real-time cycles, cel-shaded animation, or Boyhood's filming of the same actors over twelve years. It makes one think about how well some of those productions might've worked had they been conceived in a more traditional format, whether the writer-director's philosophical and developmental musings would carry the same weight if they weren't bolstered by his inventive filmmaking. In Everybody Wants Some, his depiction of freshman students joining a college baseball team in the '80s, Linklater doesn't try to preserve the illusion of a literal "day in the life" of these guys, instead tracking their growth as a team over the time before classes start. In the absence of an attention-grabbing concept, even though there's a full roster of earnest perspectives and emotions going on, his amplified characters aren't as authentic and his directionless storytelling not as absorbing.

Considering the adoration he showed toward the '70s in Dazed and Confused, it makes perfect sense that Richard Linklater would eventually stumble into the '80s with his reminiscent cinematic style, and he does so in a way that elegantly acts as a follow-up to both his high-school romp and Boyhood. Everybody Wants Some takes place at the very beginning of the '80s, though, so there isn't a stark difference in the time periods as freshman pitcher Jake Bradford (Blake Jenner) walks into his college baseball team's ramshackle residence at a fictional Texas university. Upon his arrival, Jake gets subjected to a mixture of friendly and antagonistic initiation from the other team members: team captain Glen McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) doles out a harsh new-guy, anti-pitcher attitude, while Glen Powell's idiosyncratic Finn and others rope him into social activities. The countdown begins to the first days of class, to which the group of guys work to form a bond over beer, women, bars, practices, and ... uh, more women and beer, while Jake decides to pursue the performing arts girl, Beverly (Zoey Deutch), he meets on the first day cruising with the guys.

Even though the chronology sprints ahead throughout the week leading up to classes, there's no mistaking the signature dialogue, focus on music, and slice-of-life aimlessness of Richard Linklater's style. Told largely from the perspective of Jake, Everybody Wants Some takes a more focused approach than the celebratory tone of Dazed and Confused, though. Where everyone rejoices in the end of school and the beginning of summer in the director's ode to high-school, this portrayal of collegiate baseball players tackles the beginning of a long road ahead in terms of training, education, and preparing for life after college, both for the inbound freshman and the senior-level pro prospects. The ease in which Jake and the other freshmen fall into a rhythm with the rest of the team is missing the genuine, accessible touch of Linklater's other coming-of-age and relationship-building stories. There aren't any obstacles that the handsome, well-spoken and good-natured Jake can't overcome, and the bonds that smoothly form between teammates doesn't capture the same earned substance as Linkater's other works.

Of course, that doesn't prevent Everybody Wants Some from being enjoyable fun to watch, if for no other reason than Linklater's charming roster of caricature personalities. As they play on arcade machines, boogie down in various bars, and smoke and drink profusely, the players' personalities take shape while the film consistently debunks the idea that athletes are mindlessly about sports and nothing else. Naturally, Linklater's cheeky, instinctive dialogue and situations revolve around their pursuits of women and team shenanigans, and the script constantly lobs out the kind of humorous lines one would expect from confident, testosterone-driven guys in their physical prime. But there's more to them than that, whether it's the sly intellect of the socially "adaptable" Finn or the sensible musings of the bearded hippy Willoughby (Wyatt Russell). Linklater breaks down the "jock" stereotype and plays jazz with it, though the concept rolls away from him whenever he focuses on the few true oddballs among them, whose overly weird, gratuitous traits stick out from the more organic group of competitors developing into a cohesive unit.

Everybody Wants Some ends up hitting a wall because there isn't a destination in sight, though, with Linklater beginning a story here that he has no intention of finishing ... outside of a potential sequel. Despite their interpretive vagueness, each of his prior slice-of-life projects accomplished something of some kind before the credits rolled, whether it was two strangers' cathartic discovery of true love, the culmination of an epic coming-of-age celebration, or the full maturation of a young adult. This one, on the other hand, reaches the height of its catharsis with team practices and first dates, warming up to the really profound stuff that's to come in Jake's life and to the people surrounding the promising young pitcher, all of whom are also embarking on the discovery of a brand-new decade of culture shock. Each party, each prank, and each individual victory or defeat suffered by these guys who really don't like to lose sets up the journey to be undertaken by this new iteration of the Southern Texas Cherokees, yet Everybody Wants Some leaves one wanting a good bit more just as this college experience gets started.

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