Friday, September 2, 2016

Freshman Orientation

Year: 2016
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Ryan Guzman 
Run Time: 1 hour 57 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

I dug Boyhood, my first foray into the Oscarbait half of Richard Linklater’s filmography. So I was excited to check out Everybody Wants Some!!, his entry into the college movie subgenre, a personal favorite of mine. It also didn’t hurt that it featured two actors I like, one for unrecognized talent reasons (Glenn Powell, whose Scream Queens performance I determined the best of 2015) and one for… personal reasons (Ryan Guzman of The Boy Next Door). Boyhood was a slice of life narrative that said what it had to say, albeit in a very relaxed manner, so I was intrigued to see how he could follow it. Turns out, he did the exact same thing, only way more scatterbrained and self-indulgent.

Though I can’t complain about certain indulgences…

Everybody Wants Some!! details the weekend before class starts at a Texas college in 1980. We follow a baseball team living in an off-campus house, mostly via the entry point of freshman Jake (Blake Jenner), who strikes up a tentative flirtation with theater girl Beverly (Zoey Deutch). The boys that pack this film include McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), a sore-losing alpha jock; Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), a laid-back stoner; and Finnegan (Glenn Powell), a fast talking  know-it-all whose faux-intellectual bravura just barely obscures his crippling self doubt. The rest of them blend together in a miasma of sun-baked testosterone. So… that’s pretty much it.

If you’re coming to a Linklater flick looking for plot, just watch School of Rock again.

Richard Linklater loves his cultural signifiers. In Boyhood, pop music and developing technology form a rich tapestry of time over which he presents his story. In Everybody Wants Some!!, he wants to remind everyone that the music scene was so very cool in 1980, wasn’t it? It’s more mix tape than movie, and the prioritization of capturing the look and feel of the period causes the rest of the story to suffer.

The truly frustrating thing about this is that so much of Everybody Wants Some!! is so good. Or at least, it has so much raw potential. The act of looking back on the movie is far more pleasurable than actually sitting through it, because it encompasses a lot of important themes about life, youth, and identity.

And weirdly, not baseball. Like, at all.

As the boys head out each night to different bars and parties trying to get some (which, as rumor has it, they all want), they view themselves as the most desirable men in the world. They play baseball. They have a future. An exciting one, not like all those future office drones around them. Only Finnegan seems aware of the bitter truth that college baseball won’t last forever. And their habit of constantly dressing up to fit the requirements of whatever bar they’re visiting that night (cowboy hats and boots for swing dancing, leather and studs for a punk club) prove that they’re just blank slates with no personality of their own. Of course, Linklater has Jake point this out in a hideously clanging piece of dialogue that smashes the subtlety to smithereens, because he really doesn’t seem to care all that much about his story.

Given this lackadaisical attitude toward the storytelling, it becomes more and more difficult to actually give a crap about the characters. If the director isn’t doing it, then why should I? Look back at my plot summary for this film. I described exactly three boys, because those are the only ones I could remember from this cast of over a dozen. I wish I could pretend Finnegan was the protagonist because Glenn Powell is the best performer and has his hands on the most interesting material, but no. We have Jake, the blandest cypher this side of a Tobey McGuire movie, and most of the cast gamely plays the wallpaper behind him.

I’ve never been this disinterested in a movie full of shirtless men.

Everybody Wants Some!! is best described as a hang-out movie, but there’s nobody here I would remotely even consider being friends with. They’re just a gaggle of hormone-addled über-morons who are nipping like chihuahuas at the heels of life. If you’re a white, heterosexual male between the ages of 25 and 45, this movie might just speak to you, but let’s be honest. Do we really need any more of these?

A word that a film reviewer should always be cautious about throwing around is “boring,” but I must honor my truth. I was bored to tears by the hedonistic antics of this motley crew, as much as I desperately wanted to be on their side. They’re unpleasant and occasionally engaging, but they’re mostly just dull as watching paint grow. I don’t need two hours with these people. I’d rather spend my time listening to the soundtrack in a dark room. And I don’t even like The Knack all that much.

TL;DR: Everybody Wants Some!! has some solid potential, but it's too dull and meandering to make it work.
Rating: 5/10
Word Count: 853

1 comment:

  1. I know I'll get around to Everybody Wants Some Exclamation Point Exclamation Point eventually, but I am aware it could go either way. On the plus side, I'm a white heterosexual male. On the minus side, I'm typically annoyed when movies are mostly about the effortless sex and fun of youth, because it's pretty baleful to be asked to feel nostalgic for an experience you never had.

    (But you know what was a great Richard Linklater movie? Waking Life.)