Titled after a Van Halen song and a truth universally acknowledged, Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! follows a dozen members of a college-baseball team through a cloudless late summer in 1980. You know the clock is ticking for these specimens of boisterously healthy manhood, as it always does for young athletes; and yet Linklater, who made the Before trilogy and Boyhood (which could have been called Before Consciousness of Mortality), allows neither pathos nor urgency to intrude this time. The master of deadline cinema flashes a title at the beginning, telling you that classes will start in three days and so many hours and minutes. Then, when each section of the film has drifted by, he revises the tally downward, with a precision that grows more ridiculous in proportion to the mounting evidence that his characters just don’t care. For as long as the film lasts, these blithe young men with their Burt Reynolds mustaches and torso-hugging T-shirts live in an eternal present of chasing women, drinking, partying, making fun of each other, chasing women, dropping by the swimming hole, lounging about their off-campus houses, and talking nonsense. One afternoon, they even practice a little baseball.
For as long as the movie lasts, you too have nothing more pressing to do. It’s only afterward, when you look back on this comedy of jock manners, that you marvel at how economically Linklater has wafted you along, using little more than breezy moods, plotless good spirits, and the rhythms of an encyclopedically eclectic pop sound track. Compared to the difficulty of sustaining a whole movie on such wisps, you might think, the creation of weighty masterpieces must be no trick at all.
That said, if you’re determined to do it, you can wring a story, some themes, and even a moral out of Everybody Wants Some!! A freshman pitcher named Jake, played by the charmingly long-faced and gangly Blake Jenner, drives into the fictional Southeast Texas State University on surges of “My Sharona” and brings the camera with him to explore, with rapid efficiency, the old wood-frame houses where the baseball players live and get introduced to the other characters. Thoughtful and a little quiet, but also poised and adept at blending in, Jake understands that the days ahead will be about transforming a gathering of highly competitive egotists into a functioning team.
Stupid bets, practical jokes, and the intense pursuit of victory in darts, table tennis, and Nerf basketball are some of the methods by which the characters test one another, developing a give-and-take and resolving their hierarchy. Skirt-chasing is another. Even though the frenetic nightly pairings-off are ostensibly done just for pleasure (and seem to deliver plenty of it), success in soliciting the warm cooperation of young women is one more means by which the ballplayers decide how they rank in relation to one another. In their muscular encounters on and off the diamond, McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin)—dark-haired, gruff, and unbelievably strong—reigns as the man you shouldn’t even try to beat. In the discos, roadhouses, and parties, Finnegan (Glen Powell)—blond, pipe-smoking, and drolly grandiloquent—reigns as the acknowledged leader in chatting up women. You might say that Everybody Wants Some!! is the story of how Jake meets the challenge of McReynolds, accepts tutelage from Finnegan, and then has enough wit and soul of his own to fall in with a woman he actually likes: an open-faced, sassily earnest performing-arts major named Beverly (Zoey Deutch).
Of course, this is an unrealistically rosy image of life, and it’s clearly meant to be. You can recognize the paradisiacal aspirations of Everybody Wants Some!! by the fate of the one character who is not allowed to linger in its sweetness: a late-hippie pitcher named Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), who resigns himself to expulsion in the film’s only plot twist. By sending Willoughby off, Linklater in effect confirms that everyone else remains within the gates of Eden, where the colors of Shane F. Kelly’s cinematography resemble Valentine’s Day candy hearts and the musical options—from disco and punk, from funk to country—unite rather than divide America’s tribes.