I can’t tell you how many times I have seen Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. When it came out, I was young enough to relate to Mitch Kramer and at the same time too young to know anything substantial about the 70’s or what it meant to be a highschooler. Pickford and Slater reminded me of my cousins, Randall Pink reminded me of my brother, and I didn’t know it yet but most of these characters would one day seem analogous with many other people in my life. In spite of its loose structure and minimized conflict, these realer than real contemporary characters make us genuinely give a shit about the movie. It’ll make you want to roll in after the sun comes up and lay back to put on your headphones with a smarmy grin on your mug, if you watch it just right. But enough plastering on the love for a film that already gets its fair share of praise. Surely there are decent essays out there about it, and we should be reading them. Even though it isn’t fair to compare Linklater’s new film to what is considered his most iconic (albeit perhaps not his most critically acclaimed) work…it just can’t be helped. Not to mention, Linklater himself calls Everybody Wants Some!! the “spiritual sequel” to Dazed. Why then did it leave me feeling not so spiritual? Even though the film was entertaining, and better than most of the movies I’ve watched so far this year, it just left me with an itch deep down in whatever organ it is in my body that produces reactions to movies. (Spoilers ahead)
Now, it’s not that these characters are boring, unrelatable, or flat. I’ve never been a college freshman on the baseball team, but each of these characters (save perhaps Juston Street’s “Rawdog”) seemed quite real. They were distinct from each other and from the beginning our protagonist takes on a sort of Mitch Kramer meets Pink feeling; clueless as the rookie and yet laid back. It seems our Rookie, Jake, will be taking on the task of assimilating into the group and winning the girl. These are not groundbreaking plot points, but again, they feel accurate. That’s what an early 80’s-male-college-freshman-jock would experience, right? It’s too bad that Jake’s problems all seem to solve themselves in the blink of an eye. I’m not really sure what was meant to be at stake for him, or for the viewer, as his “pitcher hating” “freshman hazing” teammates come around all on their own, even dishing out advice to the youngsters about what it means to be in college and how one should navigate their undergraduate experience. It just came together so easy and yet something was missing. Where was Jake’s equivalent to Mitch’s paddling? Who in this cast served as the O’Bannon of the class? These elements just weren’t there. Perhaps more troubling was the complete absence of any meaningful scenes centered around the female characters. Something Linklater really got right with Dazed was that he showed the story from many perspectives: the freshmen, the upperclassmen, the girls, the brains, the jocks, the stoners, and so on. And yeah, those stereotypes overlapped tremendously, but getting to see all of the characters in the their own right made things interesting and meaningful. I hate to be a big girl about it, but I just wanted to know more about the girls in this movie, rather than seeing them as objects to be pursued by the baseball team. Although this one sided representation may look like true life (and jocks who attended college in the 80’s, feel free to chime in), it left something to be desired. And I know Linklater is better than that.
I just completely crapped on this movie, but all said, I did like it. Honestly. I went to see it on my birthday, and that is no small feat. I try and save only the best for that honor, and I was not disappointed by my choice. In fact, this movie did give me a little punch to the gut in the form of Wyatt Russell’s character Willoughby, who as we find out is actually a 30 year old masquerading as a college eligible athlete. This is news that the other guys on the team react to with shocked exclamations along the lines of “he’s fuckin’ 30!” As someone who was literally turning 30 in the theatre that day, it was uncanny and maybe even a little depressing. Here’s Willoughby, hanging on desperately to a young lifestyle that suits him so well that the other youth of the team don’t even question his presence. Sure, he seems more eccentric and introspective than the other guys on the team, and is less concerned with scoring with girls; but, he’s just a stoner, right? Meanwhile the other boys have their whole lives ahead of them, fitting in seamlessly in any venue. From night to night they transform from disco dudes, to cowboys, punks, and even drama nerds. They can be anything they want, even if it starts with being a baseball player for a little while. When Willoughby gets discovered and we never see him again, life goes on for the rest of the team. In spite of the fact that Everybody Wants Some!! was missing some much needed elements, it does not fall short in being able to thump viewers in the whatever organ makes us think hippy dippy words like “oh man, heavy…” On top of this, the film is truly funny. All the slapstick humor and fart jokes of the comedy machine have seemingly been saved for something else. The comedy here was right on. Even the most outlandish character, much like his mustache, managed to stay trimmed just under the threshold of ridiculousness. I particularly appreciated Linklater’s expose of the masculine drive to make everything a competition, be it ping pong or bloody knuckles. And oh man…there were so many pairs of short shorts.