Directed by Richard Linklater
You know, if you told me at the beginning of 2016 I’d have a frat-house film on my list, I’d say you were a liar. If you told me it would be the best frat-house film since Animal House, I’d call bullshit. If you told me it was written and directed by none other than Richard Linklater himself, I’d have probably laughed in your face.
Joke’s on me.
Everybody Wants Some!! is probably Linklater’s most divisive film to date, which isn’t saying much given he has a natural penchant for either crowd-pleasers (Boyhood, Dazed & Confused, School of Rock) and fringe pics (A Scanner Darkly, Tape, Fast Food Nation).
This one kind of straddles both categories. Though, this time around, its story’s subversiveness is comparatively prosaic: a ragtag team of college baseball players live together in the first coming weeks of the school year.
My intrigue into this film lies where Linklater explores masculinity as both an outsider and insider. This film and his craft as a director is paradoxical. Here is a director who was playing State College baseball during the day and watching Robert Bresson during the night.
Linklater’s body of work harmonizes both sides of the male experience so masterfully. It feels Linklater is quite aware of the fact that this autobiographical and heteronormative story about a bunch of white male athletes living together doesn’t necessitate conflict because tacking on such would feel artificial, or worse feel like parody.
Seriously consider the story…an ensemble cast of muscular white guys who share a house together and party leading up to their Baseball season. There couldn’t be a cast further from the realm of danger in the world.
Yet it’s engaging because Linklater defines the adolescent ego through its necessary, if not clunky components - the alpha male (McReynolds), the philosopher (Willoughby), the Id (Plummer), the Unconscious (Coma), the Fool (Brumley), the intellectual (Finnegan), the feminine rebel (Justin) and our confused Hero both embracing and resisting all of them (Jake) simultaneously in the middle.
Jake doesn’t quite know where he belongs as he navigates through stoned philosophy, ping pong, country music, disco, punk, and experimental musical theatre. Linklater doesn’t define him (as is a staple within his repertoire of characters) because both Jake and Linklater are comfortable in not knowing.
Where many director’s acquiescence of ambiguity is daunting in its dramatic form, Linklater embraces the quality in the least expected genre with the least expected characters.
I spoke about this avoidance of defining terms in my piece about the Eastern approach to female narrative versus its Western counterparts and to some extent, the same holds true to the men in Everybody Wants Some!! To channel this kind of playful uncertainty within the alpha male arena is not only a bold stroke of genius, but a goddamned funny one.