Monday, April 18, 2016

Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

Film: Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
Stars: Blake Jenner, Zoey Deutch, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Glen Powell, Wyatt Russell, Will Brittain
Director: Richard Linklater
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 5/5 stars

I see more movies than your average human being.  This is a stone cold fact, and likely the understatement of the day.  While other people might see maybe three or four movies in theaters, and roughly the same at home, I'll put away fifty movies in theaters in a year, and another hundred or so at home.  Movies are my currency, my life-blood.  I get the shakes if I go longer than maybe two weeks without sitting in a darkened theater, and can't make it longer than a week without hitting at least a movie at home.  As a result of this, though, I have different expectations when I go to movies.  I could probably live my life quite well if I didn't see another comic book movie for another ten years or so, and this is coming from someone that loves comic books (I have a stack of recent ones in my library).  I go to the movies to be surprised, to be moved in ways that hundreds of other movies have failed to do so.  As a result of my mass consumption, I rarely get to see a movie that meets that qualification, and my standards are high, but when I do I treasure the experience.  In recent years, however, no director has more consistently hit it out of the park for me than Richard Linklater.  Last year I did my every-three-years update of my 100 favorite films of all-time, and Linklater somehow had three films debut on the list, and a fourth wasn't that far behind.  His Before trilogy, so perfect, alongside the masterwork that was Boyhood sort of gave him a pass for life in terms of new movies.  I admittedly have never seen his seminal flick Dazed and Confused, but I intend to get there soon, as Everybody Wants Some!! has taught me that Linklater has a singular voice at the cinema that doesn't feel like anyone else's, and even when you pitch to me the most unlikely of situations for me to love a movie (a sports picture...about a bunch of straight guys trying to get laid and playing sounds like torture), he still finds a voice that feels staggeringly authentic.

(Spoilers Ahead) Like most of Linklater's films (or at least the ones I'm accustomed to), Everybody Wants Some!! is admittedly thin on actual plot, and kind of just moves from Point A to Point B.  We start with Jake (Jenner-I'm going to have to rewatch but I don't think we ever get a last name) meeting the men who live in his baseball house, all of different walks of life but coming together in a quest to win baseball games, score with chicks, and carouse while chest-beating.  The film progresses over a very short period of time, just a matter of about four days before the college school-year comes about, with the men getting to know each other in the house by feeling each other out, learning what makes the others tick and establishing a hierarchy and a pecking order in the house.  As the film progresses, we occasionally get moments of the real (we see Jake fall for a girl he met on the first day on campus who feels like "more than a hookup" and we see some of the shattered dreams of people, such as a thirty-year-old pretending to be a college student to continue playing baseball), but this isn't expository, as the film stays seemingly surface-level and present, showing just a series of guys circa 1980 enjoying their lives.

If that sounds like your jam, you're probably in for a good time, but if you're like me and that sounds like, well, torture, know that Richard Linklater isn't totally in frat boy mode.  The film progresses with the idea that these are all men looking to have a good time, but in the meantime Linklater has a lot to say about the precarious nature of straight/male friendship.  This is a well-trod subject, and part of me kind of hoped that we'd, I don't know, get a gay guy in the bunch (there are moments where we come close with Wyatt Russell's Willoughby and Ryan Guzman's appreciation of his "cheese" (it's an extended scene where Guzman admires his admittedly firm posterior in the mirror, claiming to have the nicest ass in the house)) but that wasn't to be, and there's still so much posturing and fascinating brotherhood amongst the men in the house.  In one of the few expository moments of the film, Jake comments to Finn (Powell) that it's weird they're defending an outcast in the group against a bartender they like, but they are a team, and that's what they do.

The film feels so rich in thoughtful observation of these men, and it just sort of grows as you leave the theater.  The film feels so in-the-moment, in many ways similar to Before Sunrise and Boyhood, that you don't get a chance to catch your breath and try to figure out what certain things mean or where they are all going-everything is relevant, everything is vibrant and rich.  You leave thinking about how these men will look back on these moments with a sense of nostalgia, knowing that these glory moments were amongst the most liberating and freeing of their lives, and that even the hatreds and the rivalries will blossom into something rose-tinted in order to get through the doldrums and regrets that would come later in life.  Time is a factor in almost all of Linklater's films, but here it's combined with nostalgia, and perhaps it's one of those films where you have to have lived a little bit, tasting the bitter of life, before you can catch what it is saying about the greatest luxury of youth: potential.  There's a telling moment late in the film where Jake calls out what he assumes is yet another prank on the freshmen when he says that a house-painter isn't actually a scout from a major league team, and then is suddenly taken aback by the fact that so many guys in the house truly believe the lie because it buys them time toward a dream that will almost certainly never materialize.

The acting in the film is uniformly good.  Jenner may never be Daniel Day-Lewis, but he's meant to be a blank canvas in the way that Ellar Coltrane was in Boyhood, and as a cartoonishly handsome, nice guy, he serves that purpose.  Even better is the cavalcade of supporting characters.  We already mentioned Russell's Willoughby, but he's topped by even better work from Tyler Hoechlin as Mac, a jaded baseball player, clearly the star of the team who has an animosity to the younger freshmen who are here to take his throne, and Glen Powell (who between this and a standout role on Scream Queens is having a banner twelve months) as Finn, a philosophy-spouting ladies' man who can adapt to any situation and is witty beyond-all-recognition.  If Millennials liked the kinds of films that Linklater put out in the same way as Generation X, his face and quotes would be on the shirts of every straight guy at a baseball game you could find.

So the film itself is, in my opinion, the best movie so far of 2016.  It's a departure from the Linklater I love in terms of subject, but not in terms of deep care that he puts into characters and talking about time, life, risk, and love.  If you haven't seen it yet, make sure and catch it in theaters where it can encapsulate you-don't let the subject matter deter you-this is, once again, something special.

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