Can someone please explain to me what the big fucking deal about Richard Linklater is? No, really, I genuinely don’t get it. I will admit that I am not familiar with his early work, but his previous film Boyhood was a merely interesting cinematic experiment that received overblown claims of perfection for reasons that I cannot fathom. And now Linklater’s latest, Everybody Wants Some, is receiving similar praise, though I might have an explanation as to why this time. And it’s not for the right reasons.
To detail the plot of Everybody Wants Some is an exercise in futility, because it unapologetically has none. Set in the 1980s over the course of a weekend leading up to the first day of college, the film follows the exploits of a baseball team living off-campus in their pursuit of hooking up with girls and getting ready for the school year and sports season. Ostensibly our protagonist is Jake, a new freshman who is just finding his footing among his new teammates, but he has no character arc to speak of so he merely acts as an audience point-of-view character to a series of disjointed episodes.
In fact, almost none of the film’s large cast deals with any sort of emotional journey, and those who do are subject to the whims of convenience and brevity. A film this aggressively atypical in its story presentation needs to have strong characters to substitute the traditional narrative, but Everybody Wants Some is content to let each of its characters, none of whom I bothered to learn the name of, embody the same sports-bro headspace while distinguishing them from one another with the most threadbare of archetypal traits, from the stoner to the loudmouth to the too-cool guy to et cetera.
The film’s attempt at providing depth for any of Linklater’s mouthpieces is to have them spout shallow philosophy every once and a while, but none of it carries any sort of narrative significance or revelatory weight as it relates to the speakers. Not only do these monologues feel bizarre coming from apparently unintellectual characters, they don’t seem to exist for any other purpose than to posit the idea that everyone has the potential to be similarly deep, that everyone has a story to tell, and that everyone can find purpose to their life. Here’s the problem though: when the narrative and characters themselves feel like hollow vessels to communicate that idea, an emotional connection to the audience is difficult to achieve unless they can relate directly to what’s happening on-screen.
And this is why I think the film is being regarded so highly. The majority of film critics are thirty- and forty-something white males, men who grew up in the eighties and probably had social circles similar to that portrayed by the baseball team. Linklater’s lovingly nostalgic lens for the era and self-admitted autobiographical nature of this movie makes this something that men of a certain age will connect with in a certain way, not because the film’s characters or story are worthwhile, but because they can mentally see themselves as one of the boys. However, for those of us who don’t fit into that mold, the experience is aggressively boring, since these characters aren’t the kinds of people we associated with nor had the desire to. As far as I’m concerned, one of the biggest reasons to tell a story is to inform a new perspective or to at least create an empathetic bridge to the emotional journey of a character. Everybody Wants Some is only about making sure its target audience feels good about themselves through shallow self-insert shenanigans that I rarely found amusing. This one’s for the bros. And only the bros.