'Everybody Wants Some' Blends Low Comedy And Highbrow Filmmaking Into One Glorious Mixer [SXSW Review]

Richard Linklater is defined by his empathy. Few filmmakers love their characters quite as much as he does, and his affection fills his low-key dramas and broad comedies alike. Linklater's affection for the young men at the core of his new film, Everybody Wants Some, is evident in every frame. These guys, young, dumb, and prepared to make all kinds of bad decisions because they're obviously going to be 18 forever, are as realized as any comedic characters of the past decade. To watch their movie is to get to know them, to hang out with them, to join their party.Everybody Wants Some is more party than plot. Remarkably simple and straightforward, there is no traditional narrative here and no three-act structure here. Linklater, who also wrote the screenplay, simply asks the audience to tag along with a group of young college baseball players as they live it up the weekend before classes start. Not much occurs, but everything happens. When the film isn't being raucously funny, it's endearing and sweet, finding a human core underneath these beer-swilling, hard-partying jocks.

The soft-spoken Jake (Blake Jenner) is our hero on this journey, but the cast that grows around him quickly earns our affection. We get to know Jake's new friends and teammates as he does – the large ensemble is intimidating at first, but it seems to shrink with each passing minute as we get to know this crew. With every dumb prank and every wild party, they come into focus. Even when they're idiots (and more than a few of them are most definitely idiots), they're Jake's idiots. Linklater's idiots. Our idiots.

Everybody Wants Some has been billed as the spiritual sequel to Linklater's 1993 masterpiece Dazed and Confused and that is not inaccurate. While that film explored the last day of high school in 1976, this film throws us into the first days of college in 1980. Both films care more about character and connection more than dramatic incident and both feel like time capsules. Linklater deftly sidesteps straightforward nostalgia, presenting a vision of the past that is warm without being worshipful. The film is as immersive as any science-fiction or fantasy film – this unnamed Texas town and its unnamed university are so detailed and rich that you can get lost in them. By inviting you into the intimate lives of these characters, Linklater asks to live amongst them and inhabit their world.Everybody Wants Some

And that world is pretty damn hilarious. Everybody Wants Some is Linklater's funniest film in years, using his lunkheaded cast of characters as delivery mechanisms for masterfully constructed low comedy. These guys get too drunk, party too hard and bust each other's balls whenever possible. As a portrait of unleashed masculinity run amok, the film excels – there are few living things on the planet earth as primed to do something stupid in the name of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll as a college-age male, and the film knows it. Linklater has never been a particularly stylish filmmaker, but he has a keen eye for comic staging. No one films an immature prank or a ridiculous argument over a game of table tennis quite like him.

While the jokes and the rowdy behavior keep the film loose and shaggy and moving at a solid clip, the film finds times to pause and reflect. Everybody Wants Some is a comedy, but those jokes, those moments of terrible behavior, occur as the cast leaps from honky tonk bar to punk concert, from rowdy kegger to artsy-fartsy theme party. Linklater has made a film about the age where anything feels possible – you have your entire life to decide what you want to do with your existence, so why not try anything and everything? Why say no when you can say yes please?

Everybody Wants Some is powered by testosterone and bromance, but the quiet heart of the movie is Beverly (Zoey Deutch, in a star-making performance) who strikes up a relationship with Jake. The film slows down when these two are together, ditching the crass jokes for thoughtful, meandering conversations about life, the universe and everything. Surely these two won't make it in the long run. Surely this is a college fling. Most people don't stick with the first person they hook up with in the days before college. But that's fine. In fact, it's beautiful. College is temporary. Youth is temporary. Most relationships are temporary. But those innocuous decisions, those casual relationships that exist in the buffer zone between youth and adulthood, those stupid things you bonded over, those memories you forged, they define you.

Richard Linklater and his cast have created a joyous film, a comedy tinged with an invisible melancholy. There is only one period of your life where you're able to get away with making poor decisions every night and once it's over, you miss it every single day.

/Film rating: 8.5/10