Can there be any doubt by now that Richard Linklater is America’s most relaxed and quietly ambitious filmmaker? After all but reinventing the coming-of-age movie with his 12-years-in-the-making 'Boyhood' – and building an even more impressive 27-year trilogy with his heartbreaking Before movies – the director now serves up a deceptively simple comedy.
'Everybody Wants Some!!' is about nothing more (or less) than the weekend shenanigans that transpire on a Texas college campus in August 1980. The school’s rowdy baseball team returns, welcoming freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner, a clear-eyed find) with the kind of genial hazing – 'fuck-with-ery,' the newbie calls it – that brings to mind Linklater’s 'Dazed and Confused' (1993). Bongs will be lit. Pink Floyd will be discussed.
But amid the squad’s constant game playing (and knuckle flicking and disco dancing and coed hunting), Linklater embarks on yet another subtle narrative experiment, this one clothed in the tube socks and the deliriously perfect pop songs of the era. Can a whole movie consist of constant male-on-male rivalry? It becomes a joke, one the writer-director is definitely in on: “You notice how everything around here’s a competition?” asks Jake, oblivious about how good he has it pre-AIDS and cell phones.
After incorporating so much bro-centric bickering, Linklater widens out to include the drama students and one special thespian (Zoey Deutch) who, on her lonesome, sends the movie into 'Boyhood'’s euphoric zone of incipient adulthood. It’s Linklater in a nostalgic mood—but also his most deeply felt piece of growing up.