Everybody Wants Some!! premieres at SXSW, Richard Linklater's home turf
Aimless characters become etched in viewers’ memories in a film where dialogue rules, beer kegs flow and existential moments surprise
Ten minutes into Everybody Wants Some!!, Richard Linklater’s new coming-of-age film, the ensemble cast breaks out into a lip-sync rendition of the ’70s rap hit Rapper’s Delight, by The Sugar Hill Gang.
Anyone over 35 or so – or anyone with an affinity for ’80s pop culture – can identify and appreciate: admit it or not, we’ve all done that. Thus begins the nostalgic, often spiritual journey through the 1980s of Linklater’s world.
Everybody Wants Some!! premiered at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Austin, Texas, as the opening film at the South by Southwest Film Festival (SXCSW), one leg of an interactive/film/music gathering that draws more than 80,000 participants each spring.
The Austin premiere was part celebration of the film and part homage to Linklater, a Texas native, who has lived and worked in the Austin area since his breakout film Slacker in 1991. Austin received him like royalty. Conference-goers lined up early and braved pelting rain to get in and see the movie or catch a glimpse of the director and cast on the red carpet outside.
Before the movie, SXSW co-founder Louis Black told the audience how Linklater’s decision to stay in Austin and support the local film scene helped the SXSW Film Festival flourish and was instrumental in the US independent film movement that includes filmmakers such as Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and Guillermo Del Toro.
“The consequences of that decision reverberates every day in Austin,” Black says.
Everybody Wants Some!! is billed as a “spiritual sequel” to Linklater’s second film Dazed and Confused (1993), about 1970s high school life based on his years at Huntsville High School. That movie became a cult classic with oft-repeated lines from stars such as Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey and Ben Affleck.
Everybody Wants Some!! follows members of the baseball team at a fictional Texas university and is based on Linklater’s time on the baseball squad at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. “Almost everything in this movie, more or less, really happened,” Linklater says in a question-and-answer session with the audience after the film. (Members of his old Bearkats team were in the audience for the premiere.)
Linklater says he spent more than a decade trying to make Everybody Wants Some!! but couldn’t convince studios to buy in. As much of an impression as Dazed and Confused left on viewers, this film might surpass it, Linklater says on the red carpet prior to the film.
“I like it more,” he says. “College is more fun than high school. What can I say?”
Blake Jenner, who plays first-year pitcher Jake in the movie, said he was a fan of Dazed and Confused and was excited to play a role in its follow-up. Everybody Wants Some!! has the potential to leave a similar, lasting impression with audiences, he says.
“It shows styles change, music changes, fads change, but growing up and being young and figuring out who you are in the world – that never changes,” Jenner says.
The movie opens on August 28, 1980 – exactly four years and three months from the fictional start of Dazed and Confused.
In typical Linklater style, the movie teeters on sophomoric, as the audience follows the frat-boy antics of the baseball team. There are the keg stands, butt pranks and rampant womanising that come with overconfident student athletes.
Don’t expect much of a narrative or layered characters. But, as he has in past films, Linklater manages to tuck surprising existential moments between the frat jokes.
Like this gem, offered by transfer pitcher and team burnout Willoughby (played by Wyatt Russell) at a pool hall: “We’re weird. We’re different,” he tells Jake, describing baseball pitchers. “The trick is, you can’t fight it. You have to embrace it. You have to embrace your inner weird … That’s when it gets fun.”
Late in the movie, Jake and his onscreen love interest Beverly (Zoey Deutch) are floating alone in inner tubes in a river surrounded by lush trees and greenery, just two hours before classes start.
“It’s kind of beautiful,” she says, “that we get to feel passion in this world about anything.”
Linklater is obviously still passionate about making movies where dialogue rules and aimless characters somehow become memorable.