Everybody Wants Some!!

Everybody Wants Some!! ★★★★½

EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! (Linklater, USA, 2016, 9)

What I want to say sounds oxymoronic, but … Linklater has succeeded in making an uncritical critique of nostalgia. On one level this film is 200-proof, capital-N Nostalgia, completely self-absorbed in its era, in the filmmaker's own biography, and in the hanging-out vibe it encourages (there is no plot, per se; with a couple of thereby-significant caveats, below). It's an easy life to view through rose-tinted glasses -- the last weekend before classes begin for a couple of houses of baseball players at fictional Southeast Texas State University. A time for beer, chicks, competitive games, more beer, more chicks, more games (one of them even being baseball), and definitely no classes (yet). Only the fact that Journey released the song in 1981 (the very specified and specific timeframe is late August 1980) prevents EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! from being an illustrated "Don't Stop Believin'."

What the film does is … not exactly undercut its nostalgia or reduce it to caricature. But rather, in a few places, it exaggerates it just enough to left us see past it, to make clear that this IS a deliberate contrivance, a memory. A memory of not-2016 in so many ways (but what'd be the point of nostalgia for 1980, or any other time, if not for ignoring 2016). Not only does EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! not-pass the Bechdel test (by a Texas country mile) and not only does it exist in a pre-PC campus, it is blissfully (and blessedly) unaware that such things lay in the future. But precisely by such absences, Linklater create a presence (#DerridaCriticism).

For example, one of the few significant plot points — and the only real "punishment" anyone in the film suffers — involved one of the team members being unmasked as 30 years old, perpetually hopping from college baseball team to college baseball team. In other words, he's trying to relive a moment in his life past its sell-by date. No point is made of this, of course — and not because, this being Linklater, there aren't characters expounding onscreen on the meaning of everything and/or the meaning of what just happened. Also consider that EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! uses one of the hoariest "suspense" techniques in the book — the countdown clock — but in a film that in a certain sense couldn't be less suspenseful. Maybe five or six times, when the action moves ahead in time, we get an onscreen cue that it's "7am Saturday" (or whatever). Then we get another cue "one day and 10 hours (or whatever) before classes start." But this hoary technique … well, the film ends before it really hits. Or rather just as it hits, but to no effect (yet).

For another, an early shot has a row of nubile young women walking toward the camera while the overheard men talk of sexual conquest. The film-speed, the blocking, the actresses' movements, and their expressions fall somewhere in between a 1980 beer commercial and 1980 real life. The "between" is the key -- closer to the commercial, and it becomes parodic; farther from it, and it becomes bland. The former effect would turn the film into fantasy (thus distancing away the nostalgia as "mere"); the latter would turning the film into a documentary (thus making the film appear cluelessly oblivious to its own privilege). What we have instead is a presentation to the effect of Linklater saying "this is how I want to remember my college years; I want to have good memories, though I know they weren't quite that way." As someone whose disposition is almost perfectly opposed, EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! was tonic.

Oh … have I made EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! seem academic and thesis-y and medicinal ("tonic," even). Sorry. Like the life it (un)critically (re[-])presents … stop it, Victor, stop it … the film is pure enjoyment, easily coasting by on its vibe, its moments, its set pieces, its motifs (as, again, there is really no plot). As someone who spent the weeks before his first days at college in a non-jock "jock" environment of a college team (debaters), the best moment-to-moment thing about EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! is how much of male interaction (again, no matter the specifics of the male group) is sublimated competition, games of one-upmanship that dance on a knife edge of all-too-realness. Pingpong games, pickups, even drug use -- college-age men can turn anything into a contest, even if such contests look ridiculous. Especially if.