Monday, May 8, 2017
Everybody Wants Some!! (Richard Linklater, 2016)
Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth? reminded me that one of the essential characteristics of a great director is a compassionate interest in human beings. It's not that they are both comedies about college students: They are also both "coming-of-age" films, although Linklater lets us extrapolate the course of his characters' potential maturity (or lack of it), while Ozu lets his characters mature before our eyes. Ozu and Linklater have been called "sociological" filmmakers because their movies tend to be about what happens to their characters in a given cultural context: in the case of Linklater's film a group of young jocks at a Texas college in 1980; in Ozu's, Japanese college students in the early years of the Great Depression. Linklater has acknowledged that Everybody Wants Some!! is a kind of coda to Dazed and Confused (1993), the action of which takes place four years earlier on the last day of high school. The newer film is more narrowly focused than the earlier one, which had a sampling of all types of high schoolers, male and female, from brains to jocks, from bullies to victims. Everybody is centered on a group of horny young men, highly competitive college baseball players, all of whom have dreams of making it as pros. But it's still an ensemble work, with a gallery of good young actors, mostly familiar from TV: Blake Jenner from Glee, Tyler Hoechlin from Teen Wolf, Ryan Guzman from Pretty Little Liars, among others. Linklater forces us to see through the jock stereotypes and find the brains and hearts intentionally hidden behind the bravado and braggadocio of hormones and muscles. He's interested primarily in his characters' intense competitiveness and in their swiftly fading innocence. As in Dazed and Confused, in which the older stoner Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey) exhibited the Peter Pan syndrome, unwilling to leave adolescence behind, in Everybody we meet Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), a 30-year-old who masquerades as a transfer student from San Luis Obispo, trying to prolong the blissful innocence of a life spent smoking dope and playing ball. The adult world rarely intrudes on the film's characters: The coach's prohibition of alcohol and women in the residence houses is quickly ignored. But Linklater neither preaches responsibility nor sentimentalizes immaturity. In the last scene, the freshmen Jake (Jenner) and Plummer (Temple Baker) finally get to their first college class after a weekend of partying and promptly put their heads down to sleep through the history professor's lecture. They're young and have no history, or as Willoughby puts it, they're there "for a good time, not for a long time." As good as it is, Everybody "underperformed" at the box office, perhaps because it looks too much like a routine teen sex comedy for discerning audiences and didn't have enough gross-out humor or marketable stars for the usual audience for that genre.