Richard Linklater's Everybody Wants Some!! (2016) is a film that is not about everyone, or even a film about someone, but is instead a film about the herd mentality. A herd is a group of animals that move together. As a unit, a herd can find all the things that are essential to life: food, water, shelter. These things are not what this pack of machismo-flaunting athletes are in search of, and it's to a fault. The film has laughs, and an interesting milieu (albeit, a milieu that has been seen and portrayed more dynamically before), but it's completely inconsequential.
Enter Jake (Blake Jenner), a handsome incoming freshman student at Texas State University in the early 1980s, who will be living with his teammates off campus at the baseball team's designated housing. Upon Jake's entry into the house, the home is almost immediately destroyed by some of his teammates trying to fill up a waterbed on the second floor – an endeavor that nearly merges the second floor with the first, as the structural support of the home is tested. Something that is less shaky is the camaraderie of the team. Finn (Glen Powell) knows the ropes of the school and the team (presumably a fifth year senior), and becomes an older brother figure for Jake and some of the other new students. Among the other students in this house are a plethora of cliché archetypal morons and halfwits, but all of them have their shared athleticism and testosterone.
Everybody Wants Some!! takes place over the three days leading up to the first day of the semester, so there's not a lot of narrative time for fulfilling plots, but there is time for an experience. While the idea of an experience sounds like the setup for a promising ride full of jokes and fun, there's little payoff. When the film begins to get a sense of direction, it falls into the most conventional and trite budding romance variety of narrative that conflicts with everything that has preceded it.
Throughout the film, Finn discusses the animal instincts of mankind – a fitting topic of conversation with all the partying, cruising, and mindless mating taking place. Under the paper-thin surface of the film is a quest for identity. Yes, the film is about a team, but it's primarily about Jake and his interactions within the team as they bond. When he successfully gets the chance to spend some time with the girl he's been eyeing since day-one, Beverly (Zoey Deutch), Jake is presented with the chance to have a reversal on some of the more animalistic tendencies of his teammates when around the opposite sex (to put it in animal terms, Jake must adapt). Beverly is intelligent, listens to Patti Smith records, and is a performing arts major – above all, she knows what she wants...
What does everybody want? Everyone wants acceptance. Everyone wants love. These are not the answers the film is actually looking for though... what its protagonists are looking for is often found within the "male gaze". Because all of the characters are essentially the same, there's a lack of contrasting flavor as the herd moves about and no one feels ashamed for the way they discuss and treat women. Not that Everybody Wants Some!! needs a Tom "Sister Boy" Lee (John Kerr) from Vincente Minnelli's 1956 adaptation of Tea and Sympathy, but the lack of a dissenting voice is troublesome. Yes, the characters are supposed to be fun, but most of them are despicable.
Rising above the others are two students with significant charm and energy: McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) and Nesbit (Austin Amelio). Both characters exemplify the competitive nature of baseball, and are defined by more than their relation to women, but neither are the protagonist. Yes, the film is essentially an ensemble film, but the lack of variety amongst the characters leaves much to be desired. There are some wonderful locations and outfits, and an emphasis on male-grooming that is welcome and to be expected of young men living in a post-American Gigolo (1980) world (or even a post-Cruising (1980) world...). Beyond the lack of variety is the way in which the characters are portrayed: everyone is meant to be sympathized with – even Jay (Juston Street), the delusional wannabe baseball superstar on the team. With Martin Scorsese's exceptional film The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), women were degraded and bodily humor prevailed, but it was understood that the characters were not good people. Sure, the only laws being broken in Everybody Wants Some!! involve minors and alcohol, but what makes many of them any better than Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his friends as they debauch about? Such questions can plague the viewing of this film regardless of how much one wants to love it. Did I have a nice time? Yes, but I had hoped that we were watching youthful misogyny that would be addressed or eventually come to a halt. It's clear that such a change of heart wasn't in the cards, but wouldn't that have been interesting? Boys will be boys...
My ranking: 3/5