I've been a fan of Linklater since Slacker and in film after film he's proved that you do not need a linear plot to create a satisfying and revelatory movie experience. That is, if you have characters that are richly crafted matched with actors giving indelible performances. Sadly (and I do mean that sincerely) "Everybody Wants Some!!" painfully exhibits none of those two saving graces. It's as needless as those two exclamation points in the title and as alluring as running into an old high school friend who wants to drag you to his house and show you old home movies for two hours.
I think I understand what Linklater was going for here, but it's still not an excuse for the snoozefest he delivers. I *believe* he was trying for something almost anthropological. That is, studying a very specific type of American male (high-school star jock) in a specific time and place (early '80s Texas) who come to terms with the competitive nature of college (in general, but college sports, specifically). Obviously this comes from Linklater's own experience but that alone doesn't make it interesting.
The fact that it shares many similarities with Dazed and Confused is only going to mystify and irritate most people, especially fans of that earlier film, which was a much more involving and true-to-life portrayal than anything you see in this film. If you'll remember, Dazed had an encapsulated version of Everybody Wants Some embedded into it --- namely Pink's (Jason London) disenfranchisement of the whole high-school sports scene. If you look closely at the mostly unknown cast, you'll notice more than a few similarities between the two character line-ups in behaviors and physical appearance. But Dazed is a rich film. The characters were anything but types (and they did not chant "catch phrases" as one reviewer states... the film's fans created those) and each had many dimensions. None (even Ben Affleck's character) were straight heroes or villains. By contrast, Everybody Wants Some's cast of jocks and jock-babes rarely give us anything we don't expect or transcend any of the rampant stereotypes.
For long stretches... I mean *LONG*... all you get are continuous party scenes that, while well-directed, still don't deliver anything that will keep your interest. There is little conflict, and nothing but the scantest surface interactions between the cast, none of whom give anything but the most vanilla performances. This isn't the first time Linklater's used a cast of unknowns (Dazed and particularly Slacker were exactly that) but Everybody Wants Some's crew is distinctly lacking in both style and charisma.
I don't think I've been as disappointed by any movie this year. And as other reviewers have said, the overwhelming positive critical reception this unstructured mess is receiving is disturbing, to say the least. Yes, Boyhood was amazing on so many levels and easily Linklater's most masterful film, firing on all his strengths. EWS consistently plays to all his weakest.
The more I think about it, EWS's aims are closer to Slacker than Dazed. Slacker was just that... a virtual anthropological snapshot of Austin Texas college life circa 1988-1989. Only Slacker's cast continually gave the audience thoughtful, crazy, disturbing, and provoking words and actions. By contrast, EWS is about as soulful as a kegger. A fun time in the moment, but nothing you'll remember after that. And that might be a very good thing.
** One footnote: If you have a surround sound set-up, you'll notice this film makes the same mistake as many others recently by putting primary audio in the rear channels, making the party scenes virtually impossible to hear unless you just jack the center channel through the roof. Maybe this is something related to Dolby Atmos. Whatever it is, it's irritating as hell. Nothing sinks a film faster than bad sound.
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