So rarely is Hollywood able to capture the electric magic of American summertime youth like fireflies in a mason jar. The closest a director has gotten over the last few years was J.J. Abrams who harkened back to a simpler time before the Internet and cell phones; a time when kids were kids and adults were nothing more than an irksome “Peanuts” trombone in the periphery. Now, over 20 years after his ganja-puffing cult classic “Dazed and Confused,” Richard Linklater has trapped the aforementioned lightning in a bottle once again with “Everybody Wants Some!!” a movie that’s all about transitions.
Set in August of 1980, the film follows a Texas college baseball team in the days leading up to the first day of classes. While celebrating their last few days of freedom, these guys, freshmen and upperclassmen alike, do whatever any self-respecting college student would do: get drunk, get stoned and get laid (in no particular order).
And just as they’re about to open a new chapter in their lives, so is the United States. In 1980, when Ronald Reagan was about to become president, disco had one foot in the grave and the Cold War was practically over. All the cynicism and political follies of the previous decade were over and it was time to begin anew. That’s the underlying philosophy of “Everybody Wants Some!!” This renaissance of fun and debauchery (in the same vein as the Van Halen tune from the same year) starts as soon as “My Sharona” blares over the soundtrack during the opening credits.
As with many of the movies he’s made over his career, Linklater’s latest is a tad meandering. It feels more like a loosely woven collection of scenarios that are never really tied together. And for a movie about a team of all-star college baseball players, there’s hardly any baseball. In a mediocre director’s hands this would be considered a shortcoming, but not for Linklater. With an ensemble cast of relatively unknown actors, he’s made “Brooo!! The Movie” that’s totally approachable. It never comes off as a douchey thing that could only appeal to frat guys.
Each character has his own specific personality and quirk, whether it’s Wyatt Russell’s token hippie pothead Willoughby, Glen Powell’s ridiculously suave ladies’ man or Juston Street’s hot-tempered oddball Jay. We enter this world through the eyes of Jake (Blake Jenner), a freshman and newcomer to the team, and it doesn’t take long for him to become another member of the posse or fall for the artsy major Beverly (Zoey Deutch).
“[The movie is] a subtle reminder to live in the now,” Jenner told The Triangle. “With everything around us, all the traffic … with Twitter and Facebook and just how connected everybody is, you forget about the moment right here, right now as the moment,” he continued.
There’s a rare authenticity to the camaraderie and humor that makes its way to the screen and it wasn’t just a happy accident of hormonal and sex-crazed monkeys writing Shakespeare. According to Street, the cast did a rehearsal process before filming at Linklater’s ranch where all the guys bonded for three weeks by sharing a room and one bathroom. Their friendship is genuine: you’ll actually care when they’re wing-manning each other at the local discotheque (groovily named The Sound Machine) or pranking one another in the locker room.
Cast member Tyler Hoechlin said his favorite part of being in the film was its social aspect.
“It was nice to be sitting in the disco club and not have any of the direction to any of the people in the background, any of the actors be like, ‘OK, at this point you’re on your cell phone and not paying attention to anything going on around you, which seems to happen all the time now,” Hoechlin said.
“I just loved living in that world for a little bit. It was nice just to have music going and people actually dancing and socializing and having a good time,” he continued.
After last year’s ambitious cinematic experiment that was “Boyhood,” Linklater returns to his humble roots with what the Paramount promotional material is calling a “spiritual sequel” to “Dazed.” However, according to the cast, this wasn’t the immediate intention of the director who they lovingly refer to as “Rick.”
“There was never any pressure there from [Rick] or any expectations to live up to ‘Dazed and Confused.’ he was telling an original story,” said J. Quinton Johnson, the youngest cast member. “I didn’t hear the words ‘Dazed and Confused’ uttered once on set,” co-star Wyatt Russell added, son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn.
“When Rick does a movie, he does the movie for the experience of the movie and then leaves it where it belongs, which is behind, and you move on and you make another movie,” he continued.
When asked what they most enjoyed about bringing the 80s back to life, members of the cast said everything from the music (which includes hits from The Cars, Peaches & Herb, Blondie, Cheap Trick and The Sugar Hill Gang) to the clothes (short shorts and perms galore) to the attitudes of the times:
“In the 1980s everything wasn’t so PC and I mean that in the best way possible,” cast member Will Brittain said. “People weren’t looking to take offense. It was sort of a time period where everyone was sort of enjoying themselves and the people around them … From what Rick has told and what we’ve seen, it was one of those time periods where people were just a lot more easygoing,” he continued.
To quote the words of an easygoing character from this movie’s spiritual prequel, “Alright, alright, alright.”