Picking Richard Linklater’s new movie, Everybody Wants Some for the opening night of SXSW was a no-brainer. Off the back of Boyhood and Before Sunset, Linklater’s latest takes him back to college in what he has himself called a ‘spiritual sequel’ to Dazed & Confused.
Winding the clock back to 1980 with The Knack’s My Sherona pumping out of his car window, things pick up as Jake (Jenner) parks outside his new college dorm. About to join the baseball team, Jake is shacking up with the rest of the squad, but with a few days until the start of term, they have the weekend to get to know each other, party, and hit on girls.
The rest of the film follows the jocks on patrol; a feverish hunt for the opposite sex, dressing up for disco, then as cowboys, then punk, just to mix up who they take home. It’s a strange track for Linklater, whose films are normally so smart, edgy and gender-aware, but here he trades down for two hours of macho-camaraderie that isn’t anywhere near as entertaining as they think it is.
Everybody Wants Some‘s first big problem is that it just isn’t very funny. The team are forever playing tricks or ragging on each other for striking out with girls, they just don’t make for engaging on-screen characters. Linklater has said that this is one of his most personal films to date and that it’s is a life that he himself lived in college, but they’re not people I would have wanted to hang out with then, and I still don’t want to do it now.
The acting is hammy but the cast generally get by as an air of overconfidence patches over some problems, yet accentuates others. The celebration of this jocky behaviour, as the cast attempt to out-‘bro’ each other every night, feels dated and old. There’s no surprise Everybody Wants Some won’t make a dent on the Bechdel Test, and not every film has to be a socio-political fight for equality, but here the female characters are treated as bodies not people, and that will always be a problem.
As you watch the film, some of the right details are there. The supreme attention to detail is obvious; in the effortless set design, the costumes, in moments like Jake unpacking his records first, not his clothes. And after a very lacklustre opening act, things do improve towards the middle, though with a countdown to the start of term flashing up on screen every morning, and nothing really happening when it ends, Everybody Wants Some can’t help but feel like a non-event.
Lacking characters you can engage with, a plot that doesn’t really go anywhere, and a clutch of jocks ‘bro-ing’ about on a three-day binge to pick up girls, Everybody Wants Some was hugely disappointing, especially from such a talented storyteller as Richard Linklater. His eye for detail is plain for all, but for all the texture in the setting, there’s nothing in the characters that inhabit it. Such a dated view on women, and the treatment of female characters in the movie, was surprising from a filmmaker normally so adept as writing for both sexes. Finally towards the end there’s an attempt at an arc for one of the few named female characters, a love story between the male lead and Beverly (Deutch), a fellow freshman, but it feels like an after-thought to patch over some of the cracks. And even then, the film’s eventual aim for her is simply to fall in love with the lead.