“Frontiers are where you find them.”
Richard Linklater in recent years has done films that follow the evolutions of relationships over a period of time, such as Boyhood and the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight films. In Everybody Wants Some!! he takes us back to a specific period and reminds us what those days were like. Everybody Wants Some!! has been called a “spiritual sequel” to one of his early films, Dazed and Confused. Just as the Dazed and Confused captured 1970s high school life, this film focuses on the life of an incoming college freshman in 1980.
Jake is entering the fictional Southeastern Texas University as a pitcher on the baseball team. He and other team members live together in a couple of off campus houses. Much of the film is spent displaying jock culture—testosterone-fueled tribalism and the hunt for (or sometimes the talk of the hunt for) women. But the fact that these are baseball players is just the way the story is dressed up. It is really a look at that brief moment (here, the weekend prior to school starting) of new found freedom at the cusp of adulthood as Jake and the others of this ensemble piece begin to define who they will become. While the time setting may trigger nostalgia (I loved those clothes and hairstyles) the film really is not so much about 1980 as it is about that particular time of life.
The setting of 1980 works well to show the various options people might follow. In the course of the weekend the ballplayers make their way to disco, country-western, and punk clubs, each with their own style of music and dress. Those music genres were all alive at that time (although disco was on the wane as the others were growing). Music often was one of the ways people identified where they belonged. For Jake et al. this represents options they are still exploring. So far they are all only identified as baseball players. That is what they have in common and what at this point is giving them a sense of belonging. But we notice that they all are individuals as well and their personalities will at times clash or open into realms that won’t appeal to others. Defining who we are is a matter of where we belong and also how we are individuals. That is the task that these young people are just beginning to confront.
Because we only see them over a few days, we may have a shallow understanding of who they are. But with Jake, as the film moves into the last act (in which he begins to explore a relationship with a drama major), we begin to see a touch of the depth in his persona as noted in how he describes his search for meaning that he wrote about in his admission essay.
The film reflects a slightly romantic view of this period of coming of age. These people are filled with optimism as their lives lay open before them. Of course we know that there will be stumbling blocks in the life ahead of them. But it is pleasant to watch them in this brief window of time and remember when life seemed so hopeful and wish them luck in fulfilling their dreams.
Photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Annapurna Pictures.