Review: Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

Director: Richard Linklater

****

This review was originally published on Scannain.com

The title Everybody Wants Some!!, borrowed from the Van Halen song that features on the soundtrack, sums up the freewheeling positivity that rests at the film’s core, as underlined by both exclamation points (Get some! And then get some more!). Following the dramatic heights writer/director Richard Linklater explored in Before Midnight and Boyhood, we get a down-to-earth romp that largely eschews conflict in favour of a breezy pace and genuine characters. As proved in Dazed and Confused (to which this has been rightly deemed a ‘spiritual sequel’), few directors can make a lack of narrative drive work as well as Linklater. There may not be tension, but camaraderie and laughs more than fill the gap.

The film pins its setting down in the opening shot, as freshman baseball player Jake (Blake Jenner) drives his ‘72 Oldsmobile to his new college dorm house. Though set in 1980, the design (Bruce Curtis’ production, Kari Perkins’ costumes) is full of ‘70s touches, as the preceding decade has yet to give way to the next. LPs are still the way to listen to music, the t-shirts are tight and the jeans are still bell-bottomed. There is an investment in all concerned to get the details right, especially on Linklater’s part. The film is based on his own experiences in college as a baseball player, so he knows this milieu and this time. By staying true to his experience, and the characters he’s created, he ensures the film feels fresh, never forced or over the top. We’re watching a bunch of guys hang out, get drunk and chat up girls, with nothing like prejudice or irony getting in their way.

Jake arrives at the dorm to be greeted by nominal alphas Roper (Ryan Guzman) and McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin, with a ‘tache that makes him resemble the impossible offspring of Matthew McConaughey and Freddie Mercury). These batsmen’s initial standoffishness against this new pitcher threatens to sour proceedings, but they gradually warm to the new freshman in their crew as they prepare to party the weekend away before the new school year starts. Their thawing and acceptance is ultimately what Everybody Wants Some!! is all about: accepting new circumstances and going with it. Jake arrives in the house to find a waterbed filling up, the acrid smell of weed in the air and everyone just being themselves. The battinage between the housemates is sometimes merciless (The naivete of farmboy Beuter (Will Brittain) lends him to being mocked early on), but mostly jovial. Drinks are poured (“Cheers for the beers!”), jokes are told and songs are sung together. It’s a testament to the cast’s chemistry and the cracking soundtrack that you’ll find yourself singing along as the boys put their own spin on ‘Rapper’s Delight’.

Compared other campus comedies, that may trade in basic stereotypes, Everybody Wants Some!! is surprisingly generous in its characterisations and viewpoints. Our central baseball team are not generic athletic jocks; they come with the (allegedly rare) ability to string more than two syllables together and chat with all and sundry that come their way. The boys may be driven by twinned desires for booze and sex, but it never mutates them into sexists or (*shudder*) bros. Instead, Linklater plays with expectations in two clever ways. Firstly, the film spends as much time idealising and ogling its male cast as much as it does the females. The short and tight fashions of the day ensure that eye candy is available for all tastes. The film acts as a celebration of halcyon days, when the sun shines brightly, everyone is attractive and no-one is left out (J. Quinton Johnson’s status as the only African-American in the group is refreshingly unremarked upon). As long as you’re up for some fun, you’re welcome here. Secondly, Linklater mocks the fratty atmos by constantly pitching our cast against each other. Having been thrown together, these athletes feel the need to compete in any way possible, be it table tennis, foosball or drinking. This allows Linklater to undermine the effects of the testosterone-drenched atmosphere with commonsense moments of fun and friendship. As the weekend goes on, the boys drop pretense to partake in the fun to be found in line-dancing and a makeshift mosh pit. Why fight, when you can share a beer? Why berate, when you can advise? It might be idealistic, but you’ll probably be grinning too hard to care.

This vision of college life would have been too hard to swallow were it not for the efforts of the cast. Much as Dazed and Confused put the likes of Ben Affleck and Parker Posey on the map, Everybody Wants Some!! is bound to boost the careers of most of its line-up. Johnson and Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt, playing resident stoner Willoughby) prove immensely amiable foils to the alpha-male stylings of Hoechlin or Guzman. Glen Powell is a frontrunner for MVP, excelling as smooth pack leader Finn, whose confidence never becomes cockiness. By comparison, nominal lead Jenner can seem a little bland at first, but that might be by design. Jake only begins to come into his own when he begins to date theatre major Beverly (Zoey Deutch, another star in the making). True, Beverly is the only major female character in the film, but she’s as full of life and character as any of Jake’s new pals. Their scenes centre on discussions rather than flirtations, with Jenner and Deutch delightfully introducing moments of doubt and tenderness. Everybody Wants Some!! may be a story from one young man’s POV, but it’s a story in which no ill will is borne, and in which all, boys and girls alike, just wanna have fun.

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Review: Before Midnight (2013)

Director: Richard Linklater

*****

This review originally appeared on Ramp.ie

We’re told that absence makes the heart grow fonder. This is true of lovers, old friends and beloved movie characters. In 1995, Richard Linklater made us fall in love with Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) as they sashayed through the streets of Vienna in Before Sunrise, with flirtation on their lips and young love in their hearts. However, as beautiful as that night was, Linklater saw fit to bring them back for another encounter nine years later in Before Sunset, which was just as beautiful, if not more so. Both were infused with the desire of the characters for each other and our desire for them to be with each other, such is their charm and chemistry. Another nine years have passed but, despite them being a couple now (and parents to boot), Jesse and Celine’s now-middle-aged desire is in plentiful supply, more than enough to fuel Before Midnight.

At a time when attention spans are shortening, it’s always a joy to find a film that luxuriates in conversation. Stimulating adult interesting chatter. Who knows?; you may have experienced this phenomenon at some stage in your life. It feels like an increasingly rare commodity, but all three films in the Before… trilogy emphasize the importance of plain talk. Jesse and Celine’s attraction lies in their ability to communicate with each other naturally, lyrically, beautifully. Early on, a car ride through the Greek countryside sees the pair doing what they do best: discussing their lives and each other, with a little playful taunting thrown in for good measure. Skirting a fine line between dialogue and exposition, their chat helps bring us up to speed on the past nine years.  We are in on this discussion and, to judge from the young twin girls sleeping in the back seat, we have much to discuss.

The opening scene, just preceding that car trip, sees Jesse delivering his teenage son (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) to the airport to return to Jesse’s ex-wife in the States after a holiday with Dad, stepmother and blonde cherubic stepsisters (Jennifer and Charlotte Prior). As they exchange embraces at the security desk, both lament the physical distance between them. This sets the tone for what is to come. If Sunrise dreamt of what could be, and Sunset gave love one last chance to blossom, Midnight reflects on time that has passed, and the futures that might have been for both he and she. However, there are also futures still to be considered. Jesse wants to be closer to his son, but he can’t figure out how to do it. Meanwhile, Celine is contemplating taking up an offer of a new job. They are due to return to Paris shortly, but as time goes on the potential for Greek tragedy steadily increases.

Before Midnight is forever bathed in glowing sunshine, and Jesse and Celine are surrounded by friends, laughter and wine. As we know from before, however, Linklater can seduce us visually without guaranteeing a happy ending. Another winning screenplay from Linklater, Hawke and Delpy slips in little asides and stories that hint at potential trouble in paradise. Jesse and Celine are living what is by all appearances a terrific life; a successful author and civil servant take their beautiful children on six-week holiday to Greece. However, their comfort allows them to let their guard down. Introspection leads to flirtation, which leads to embracing, leading to intimacy. Indeed, for the first time we see this couple becoming intimate, only for passions of a different kind to bubble to the surface. Tensions of all kinds are sparked by the Peloponnese sea air.

As Jesse and Celine have aged, so too have Hawke and Delpy. These roles feel like a comfortable garment they can slip on; age may have worn them a little, but their innate appeal is still very much intact. The cast of Greek friends and well-wishers is a warm and witty mix, but this is the story about two people, and two people only. They laugh and cry and eat and drink and be merry, and all we can do is hang on their words and wish they will continue to do so long into the future. Jesse and Celine are simply one of the finest romances in modern cinema, and Before Midnight brings them into their forties with intelligence, grace and swooning old-school loveliness. After the kiss-off of its pitch-perfect final line, the next nine years will be a very long wait indeed.