The one thing that has always separated writer/director Richard Linklater from his fellow filmmakers is his ability to make small, seemingly inconsequential moments feel important. Many of his movies — Dazed and Confused, the Before… series, Boyhood — deal in the day-to-day minutiae of their characters, with big events either absent or happening off-screen.
He’s back in that vein again with Everybody Wants Some!!, a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused set in 1980 as the members of a college baseball team reassemble in the days before classes start for a new year. The focus is mostly on Jake (Blake Jenner), an incoming freshman pitcher, but the film is so chock-full of colorful characters that almost everyone gets a chance to shine.
In true Linklater fashion, almost nothing of import actually happens. The players, which share two off-campus houses, immediately bond over their shared love of baseball, alcohol, and women, and not necessarily in that order. They go to a variety of clubs, host parties, and generally act like college kids enjoying their first taste of freedom away from home.
Even though the film is almost nonstop drinking, partying, and chasing girls, it feels much more interesting than your average college-set movie. That’s mostly because Linklater takes the time to let his characters talk, turning them into three-dimensional people instead of your standard archetypes. Many of the characters exhibit clichéd behavior, but because we get to know them, they’re never reduced to just their quirks.
The film is also packed wall-to-wall with songs from 1978-1980, so much so that you could almost consider it a musical. Some, such as “My Sharona,” have been greatly overused in other movies, but given the time period, feel more authentic here. “Rapper’s Delight” is given a showcase by having members of the team sing along to it, and it’s a moment that’s both cheesy and joy-inducing, since few could resist doing the same so soon after the song’s release.
In fact, the movie as a whole is a complete pleasure from beginning to end. It never matters that there’s no real story; Linklater includes so many fun moments that they add up to a whole that’s way more fascinating than your typical plot-driven movie.
Like Dazed, the cast consists of actors with few known credits to their name. In addition to Jenner (who's known mainly for showing up at the tail end of Glee), standouts include Glen Powell as Finnegan, the wizened member of the team; Tyler Hoechlin as the cocky and ultra-competitive McReynolds; and J. Quinton Johnson, one of the team’s few black players.
Everybody Wants Some!! will likely not get the same type of praise as Boyhood, but it’s equally impressive in its ability to create a fully realized world and interesting characters. Linklater is a master of plotless movies, and film fans are all the richer for it.