Everybody Wants Some!! is Richard Linklater’s first movie since the award-winning Boyhood. Set in 1980 at a Texas college campus as the fall semester begins, the Houston-born writer/director calls Everybody a “spiritual sequel” to his 1993 Dazed and Confused (Matthew McConaughey’s movie debut), about the last day of high school in 1976. And like Dazed – which featured songs by Alice Cooper, Bob Dylan, Kiss, Peter Frampton, etc. – Everybody is fuelled by a rocking score of ’80s hits.
Blake Jenner literally sets this period piece’s tone as his character, Jake Bradford, drives while The Knack’s “My Sharona” plays on his beat up ’70s’ car’s radio. The freshman pitcher’s destination is the rundown house where the fictitious Southeast Texas State University’s baseball team boards and Jake will store his gear, including his coveted vinyl record collection. As Van Halen (the movie’s title is taken from one of their songs of the same name), Cheap Trick, Queen, The Cars, Blondie, et al, blast away, Jake and his teammates /housemates break more house rules than John Belushi as Bluto in the 1978 frat house comedy classic Animal House. Just as predictably, Jake romances the fetching theater major Beverly (Zoey Deutch), who has an amusing term for the jock’s baseball practice.
Amidst the drink, drugs, sex, rock ‘n’ roll and baseball are funny sight gags, revealing that Linklater has a slapstick sensibility. The auteur’s semi-autobiographical film is a look back at an interesting moment in American history, a sort of generational interregnum. The sizzling ’60s/’70s have subsided but the ’80s are just dawning. Ronald Reagan hasn’t been elected president yet, although in this apolitical picture the race between Reagan and Jimmy Carter is barely – if ever – mentioned as they romp at rock and country clubs and experience a mosh pit at a punk performance.
The baseball players – and I mean players – and their female classmates are reaping the benefits of the sexual revolution in those halcyon days before the STD, AIDS, etc., plagues descended, wreaking havoc on those who enjoyed promiscuous sex for mainly recreational purposes. In addition, the draft has been abolished and in the aftermath of U.S. imperialism’s defeat at the hands of the Vietnamese Revolution, as hard as it might be to imagine, Washington is not, at the moment, invading or bombing the bejeezus out of a Third World nation (although the so-called “Iran hostage crisis” of November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981 is never referenced).
As such, Everybody is a celebration of carefree young people – and there’s a lot to be said for youthful exuberance and sans souci, as Linklater’s stellar (and far superior) 2008 Me and Orson Welles exalted. Some, who prefer the activist sensibility of Linklater’s 2006 Fast Food Nation, may find Everybody to be fatuousness on steroids, much ado about nothing, a teen screen romp devoid of any seriousness.
One of Everybody‘s more amusing, intriguing characters is the bearded, longhaired stoner athlete Willoughby (former pro-hockey player Wyatt Russell). What befalls Willoughby is symbolic, one suspects, of the generational points Linklater is scoring here. In any case, just a few months after Everybody opens, Reagan would be elected and the music would die, with the December 8, 1980 assassination of John Lennon.
So enjoy it – and this whimsical slice of nostalgia – while you can.
L.A.-based reviewer Ed Rampell co-authored “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book” (see: http://hawaiimtvbook.weebly.com/). His interview with America’s former Poet Laureate is in the new book “Conversations With W.S. Merwin.”