Richard Linklater’s “spiritual sequel” to, alternately, Dazed and Confused (1993) or Boyhood (2014), is alive with the sound of music.1 It thrums under almost every scene in Everybody Wants Some!! (2016), sitting low in the mix but ever-present. It mingles with the meandering and often inane conversations of its college baseball team, many of whom are meeting each other for the first time, in the three short days before the new college year commences. The film revolves around the nascent camaraderie of its ensemble, which steers us through a typically Linklater-loose plot. This team environment (and the dubious advice of older, seemingly wiser teammates) is set to guide the team’s freshmen, including protagonist Jake (Blake Jenner), through an inviting, exciting, but daunting new change.
Arriving earlier on in the film than most revelatory musical moments perhaps would, there’s one scene that imbues the rest of the film to come with the kind of easy joy and youthful freedom that Linklater’s nostalgia signifies. Barely 10 minutes after Jake’s first encounters with his new house- and teammates, everyone is ushered out the door to Happy Hour at a local bar. The film cuts to the chase: heads bobbing up and down, their car smoothly turning the corner en route to the bar, five teammates including Jake have already launched into the beginning verse of the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”. Cutting between perspectives in the car, we’re immediately drawn into the scene by its kinetic energy. From over-the-shoulder shots of Roper (Ryan Guzman) and Finn (Glen Powell) reciting one line smoothly after another, to glances into the backseat, we find all five guys bopping to the beat, jerking their shoulders, popping collars, throwing up hands to punctuate one line or another.
And if the camera’s eye situates us physically in the antics, as if we’re present and participating, the sound mix convinces us of our immersion. Each of the baseballers’ voices is deliberately commingled with the sound of the song itself; rather than give in to the usual cinematic urge to let the song completely usurp the moment, and the mix, we’re kept anchored by the karaoke-like, authentic sound of their voices rapping along to the song itself. Linklater indulges in the scene, allowing it over a minute and a half of screen-time, transcending the choice to let it function as a quick, simplistic cutaway.
The appeal of Everybody Wants Some!! largely lies in the charisma and chemistry of its ensemble cast, and the way it achieves an irresistible (if sometimes bemusing and misguided) nostalgia for the dynamics of a 1980 college baseball team, and the experience of going to college itself. That minute and a half in the car belies its simplicity. It’s five young guys squeezed into a car, giving their best rendition of an early hip hop classic – but it’s also the first potent, compelling sign of burgeoning friendships, of youthful antics to come. It’s enough to have us say to the rest of the film: “Let’s rock, you don’t stop.”
- Russ Fischer, “Interview: Richard Linklater Talks ‘Everybody Wants Some!!,’ Spiritual Sequels, Music In His Films & More”, IndieWire, 15 April 2015. ↩