Everybody Wants Some!!, which opens today, is Richard Linklater’s “spiritual” sequel to his 1993 cult classic Dazed and Confused. At least that’s the sound bite from every interview and article about the director’s new collegiate, coming-of-age baseball flick.
And in many ways, Everybody Wants Some!! does feel like a sequel. Its setting, a well-designed, if overly manicured, 1980s Texas, is a natural extension of Dazed‘s Texas in the 1970s. In both films the protagonist is an earnest youth thrust into a new plane of social existence. Even more granular parallels exist for the Linklater fanboys: both films start with an extended shot of a muscle car, both protagonists play pitcher on the ball field, and Everybody‘s Finnegan (Glenn Powell) matches the mustached savvy of Dazed‘s Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey.)
But calling Everybody Wants Some!! a sequel of any kind (spiritual or otherwise) is headline and audience-building fodder. Read beyond the buzzword and you’ll find Linklater’s careful contradictions everywhere. “I think the word ‘spiritual’ gets me off the hook… it has nothing to do with Dazed and Confused,” he told Creative Screenwriting Magazine back in 2014. Nowadays he’s even less sure: “It’s not a sequel,” he told Variety in early March. “There’s nobody named the same. I started calling it a ‘spiritual’ sequel, but I don’t even know if spiritual is the right word.”
So it’s not a sequel. And that’s fine. But unfastened from any Linklater-esque continuous timeframe, Everybody Wants Some!! isn’t quite as appealing. It is a college baseball movie without much college or baseball. The original script contained both an entire semester and baseball season, but by the time Linklater finished it, he had crammed the story into one drunken weekend. “I pretty much cut out all of the baseball,” he told Collider. Unfortunately the film’s single scene of baseball playing is one of its most compelling.
So it’s not a sequel. And that’s fine. But unfastened from any Linklater-esque continuous timeframe, Everybody Wants Some!! isn’t quite as appealing.
Other than that, the film bobs and meanders much in the manner Linklater pioneered in his indie films of the 1990s, distilling listless youth into its rituals and demanding they be recognized as art. An honorable cause, to be sure, but one that’s become less accessible as Linklater has aged farther away from his subject matter, as has his chosen cast, a collection of largely late-twentysomethings faking college age.
The film watches more like a 30-year college reunion: a middle-aged rehashing of sex-and-alcohol-fueled glory days, where the haze of memory has tinted everything a saccharine shade of rose. If Dazed and Confused was an exorcising of high school demons, Everybody Wants Some!! is the blissful afterlife; like the actors and the film’s sets, everyone and everything is impossibly good looking. In conversation with The New York Times, Linklater declared the film a critique of unchecked hyper-masculine desire, but with only one developed female character (Zoey Deutch’s Beverly) and a single lucid moment of introspection (at one point protagonist Jake declares his team’s incessant girl-chasing “kinda phony”), one is hard pressed to find where critique begins and the self-aggrandizing, baseball slap-on-the-ass ends.
Still, Linklater’s philosophy-meets-reality keeps the movie afloat with fun moments: two pitchers deconstruct their roles as the necessary evils of the team; protagonist Jake compares baseball players to Sisyphus; a dugout discussion of superstition and ritual turns into a larger one of probability and determinism. The film also shines in its occasional, and sincerely funny, depictions of unexplained adolescent weirdness.
Sequel or not, Linklater once again crafts another depiction of a particular, poignant phase of life, vivid enough to tug at the audience’s “I wish I could do it all over again” strings. It just so happens that, in the case of this film, the audience is almost exclusively a group of white, philosophically minded, ex-athlete bros. Regardless, I’d rather watch the film as a thoughtful bookend — a spiritual sequel — than as a vapid party flick any day.
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