Movies about “nothing” are really hard to pull off, yet director Richard Linklater consistently finds depth and meaning in overlooked moments, particularly in his newest 80’s college baseball comedy, “Everybody Wants Some.” Linklater’s other works, such as “Dazed and Confused” (1993) and the hugely successful “Boyhood” (2014), have examined transitions from adolescence to adulthood. His newest film expands on this theme as incoming freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner) must settle into college and a new baseball team—while, of course, trying to meet girls. Despite sounding shallow on the surface, Linklater crafts his college film into a story of transition and masculinity, using baseball and sports as a way to address social tension and male insecurity.
Like “Boyhood,” this revamp of settling into college acts as a nostalgic, time capsule for the 80’s. Jake moves in with a huge record collection, his friend Dale (J. Quinton Johnson) plays a retro, portable baseball arcade game, the house has a foosball table and Galaga; Linklater invites us to relish in these details so easily. This attention to “lost” things extends to the characters and their performances too, as finger-guns or slaps on the ass, things that are potentially politically not correct today, are the norm. The team is led by hothead senior McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) and a more tempered mentor figure, Finnegan (Glen Powell), as Jake and the new freshman try their best to fit in, some unsuccessfully. His Texas roommate Beuter (Will Brittain) uses the entire phone bill calling his high school girlfriend, as catcher sidekick Plummer (Temple Baker) tries not to scare away girls at disco parties.
These are not mature adults, yet within the debauchery of parties and college girls, there is a surprising amount of wisdom. California hippie Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), despite smoking ridiculous amounts of weed, helps Jake embrace his inner weirdness of being a pitcher, a position outside the “mainstream” players. Everything becomes a competition, where ping-pong matches devolve to throwing paddles or games of flicking each other in the knuckles until the other bleeds. Like the other freshmen, Jake is on the outside. He becomes a way for the film to examine this strange group of guys from the outside. Parties, practice, and changing room jokes all become this male, pack mentality, as several characters mention distinctly, and side conversations with Jake with older players like Willoughby or Finnegan, the characters becomes a quasi-father figure, and offer commentary on these stereotypically masculine antics.
Of course the baseball house is just one group in the college scene. A theater student, Jake’s love interest Beverly (Zoey Dutch), invites him and the jocks to an art party, where Jake slowly challenges the conventional social “boundaries” of an athlete. Everyone in the house becomes so fun to be around and watch that nothing in the movie feels particularly didactic or in your face. These are all charming, funny college guys who each has something under the surface he does not want to confront, and that we can explore through following Jake’s transition. The film makes it so easy to empathize with any of the characters, and recreates the world of the 80’s as a playful way to examine potentially serious issues that can arise in friend groups.
See “Everybody Wants Some” at Tinseltown at various times throughout the week, and at Kimball’s starting Apr. 22. Sorry if you were looking forward to a review for “Zootopia,” but everyone else says it was good, so check back next week for the story of Miles Davis in “Miles Ahead.”