There really is nothing quite like the anticipation of the beginning of a school year. If you're a New Englander like me, you'll know that feeling of fuzzy, low-key excitement you feel when the first chill of the fall hits you, even if you're over half a decade outside of something resembling a school-type situation. It becomes a part of you indefinitely, as far as I can tell. And sure, you're probably not anticipating the work you'll be expected to do in the coming months, but more of how your life will change and the new experiences you'll have down the line. If you're at the beginning of a college year, then magnify this sentiment exponentially.
That's what verybody Wants Some!! feels like. Richard Linklater's live in the area between drama and comedy that is difficult to categorize, but you know a film of his when you see one. I remember seeing the trailer for this movie in the theater and having a preternatural feeling that it was a Linklater joint before his name rolled across the screen. When he is at his best, he makes films about boys and men, and the lives of the women they affect. I describe his work in this way carefully, because I think it'd be too far to say that he makes films for both men and women. When you watch something like Boyhood or the Before trilogy, the protagonists are undoubtedly the males, despite the presence of richly drawn female characters like Mason's Mom and Celine. Linklater's point-of-view is just too strongly masculine. This isn't to the filmmaker's detriment, but one should call it as it is.
Nowhere is this more palpable than in Everybody Wants Some!!. The plot of the film is basically nonexistent, but as it is: Jake (Blake Jenner) is an incoming freshman at a Texas university where he will be one of the baseball team's newest players. Like the other young men on the team, he's ludicrously handsome and confident that the world will adapt itself to its whims, mostly because it has up until this point in his life. But now he's in the company of other bucks like himself, so he has to adapt to being a little fish in a big pond. The film concerns itself with the last three days of the summer before the fall semester commences and Jake's obligations to his sports scholarship begin in earnest. These days involve an unprecedented amount of freedom and a not-insignificant amount of drinking and pot-smoking. He hangs around with other players on the team, each of whom has his own distinct personality and varying degrees of openness to a fresh face. And in spite of the almost constant sexual posturing towards the boys's fellow female students, Jake falls inexorably for a sensible, pretty young lady almost immediately.
Linklater captures the unique listlessness and unpredictable pace of when you're newly unsupervised but still utterly without responsibilities. Jake wakes up each morning with little on his mind other than when he'll finally get around to standing up from the couch so that he can wander around town accepting invitations to drink beer and play pickup games of baseball. There's also the presence of homoeroticism that is unescapable when scores of hunky men literally crowd the frame and the physical locations in the film, most of which expresses itself in the sort of physical intimacy and tumbling around that men like these almost always find themselves doing. The authenticity of feeling that this film gives off is spurred on by Linklater's personal familiarity with this scenario: he originally went to college to play baseball during the same era (late 70s/early 80s).
Like Linklater's other films, this one is tied inextricably to its period, but isn't beholden to it. If this were a Hollywood production, the film would grind to a halt to underline its 80s-ness, most likely in a completely inaccurate way. After all, the early 80s were really more 70s in outward appearance than the decade we've come to know. This means that disco wasn't quite completely out of fashion, nor were long hair and silly mustaches. These details all feel lived-in and merely incidental: if the film were set in any other time period, the same themes and feelings would apply. The merchandise in the window is the same, but the window treatments give it character.
The movie is also unapologetically about dudes, dudes, dudes. You don't get the feeling that it's actively trying to alienate any non-straight, -white, -cis, -male audience, but there's no denying that Linklater writes what he knows. Yes, there is one black player on the team (played by J. Quinton Johnson), which the movie thankfully makes no jokes about, but if you looked at a baseball team in Texas in the early 80s, would the demographic makeup of this team really be all that different? Representation is and likely will always be an issue at the movies, but it's far better to seek your quarrel elsewhere. Everybody Wants Some!! is just like its cast of characters: they're all looking for a good time and aren't intentionally hurting anyone on the way. Boys will be boys (I hate that phrase, by the way), and that's precisely what the boys in this film do. They're like exciting hound dogs wagging their tails and knocking over all your expensive wine glasses in the process.