Sexist, privileged and arrogant are apt words to describe the young men who populate Richard Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some!!,” a bittersweet ode to college culture in the year 1980. Linklater asks us to like all these entitled young dudes, and not in an ironic way. If anything, the more you’ve been steeped in the countercultures that reacted against precisely these kinds of macho jocks, the more likely you may be to embrace them.
“Everybody Wants Some!!” is Linklater’s follow-up to “Dazed and Confused” (1993), his cult classic about the Darwinian carnival known as high school in 1976 (it’s also the film that introduced us to Matthew McConaughey). Both movies are driven by, and named for, era-appropriate rock songs, and they brim with rich period detail — in this case, tube socks, V-neck tees and shapeless coifs. Our hero, Jake (Blake Jenner), looks like Jackson Browne mixed with David Cassidy, but he’s actually a baseball pitcher on a scholarship to a Texas university. The first girl he meets, Beverly (Zoey Deutch), calls him “the quiet one.”
Is he, though? Jake fits right into his off-campus residence, a squalid rumpus room of aggression, booze-fueled misbehavior and camaraderie — an “Animal House” for winners. Jake’s teammates include the alpha dog Roper (Ryan Guzman), the charismatic Finn (Glen Powell) and the talented bizarro Niles (Justo Street). These are not even half the main characters, all memorable and played by a uniformly excellent cast.
Linklater (“Boyhood,” “Before Sunrise”) is the rare filmmaker for whom lack of plot is a virtue. “Everybody Wants Some!!” unfolds like a documentary as its heroes hop from one cultural scene to the next — a disco club, a country bar, a mosh-pit — in their endless search for gullible females. It feels like an accurate portrayal of what it was like to be young and male in an era before cultural sensitivity, postmodern irony and countless “-isms” made everything so dang complicated.
Linklater nods to diversity by including a black ballplayer, Dale (J. Quinton Johnson). As for women, they fare rather poorly, though that may be part of the point. There’s a purity to this movie’s portrait of the times, even if you wouldn’t necessarily want to live there.