By Connor Reed – The Daily Free Press – 03.27.16
At one point in Richard Linklater’s newest film, Jake, a college freshman played by Blake Jenner who’s just spent a long weekend with his future baseball teammates, enters the first class of his undergraduate career. The professor, who we barely see and hear only in passing, has written an epigram in large lettering on the chalkboard: “Frontiers are where you find them.”
“Everybody Wants Some!!” is marketed as Linklater’s “spiritual sequel” to 1993’s “Dazed and Confused.” It’s about a lot of things, but most of its themes can be boiled down to that assertion.
Set in the early 1980s, the film takes place over a single weekend, opening as Jake arrives at an unnamed Texas university to play baseball and moves into new off-campus athlete housing. We watch as Jake gets to know a slew of the team’s personalities, like Billy Autrey (Will Brittain), his drawl-sporting roommate preoccupied with a long-distance relationship, and McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), an upperclassman with a deeply competitive streak and fragile ego. The group bounces from party to party, discusses things like music, science and women and seizes any chance that presents itself for lighthearted derision.
After speaking with Jenner, Brittain and Hoechlin in a roundtable interview Friday at The Eliot Hotel, it seems clear that the laidback, jovial, testosterone-infused environment that Linklater conjures onscreen transferred over to the environment on set.
Brittain, a 25-year-old Texas native whose first major role was in the 2013 indie drama “A Teacher,” repeatedly emphasized the camaraderie of the process.
“Everybody was killing it,” Brittain said. “And you knew everybody was killing it. And you knew everybody was going to kill it. And then when we killed it, we were like, ‘Hey! We killed it!’”
Jenner echoed the sentiment. All three actors mentioned that the film, which sports an ensemble cast and belongs squarely in the “hangout movie” genre Linklater has established with films like “Slacker” and “Dazed and Confused,” felt like a collaboration in the way that a sports team feels like a collaboration, with lines and moments often shuffled between actors without resentment.
Another point of focus was the experience of working on a Linklater film — not only stylistically, as he is an auteur of meandering naturalism, but as a career emblem.
He is often cited as a launcher of careers, perhaps the most well-recognized example being Matthew McConaughey’s early performance as David Wooderson in “Dazed and Confused,” whose catchphrase “alright, alright, alright” has become synonymous with McConaughey’s brand.
“Coming from first moving out to Los Angeles and working at a Burger King and a parrot shop and auditioning for Best Buy commercials that you get cut out of … it sounds cheesy,” Jenner said. “But it’s a dream come true 100 percent to be able to say, ‘Yeah, we worked with that director,’ who’s easily one of the greatest directors of our country and time in general.”
One hallmark of Linklater’s filmography is a sometimes-sprawling thematic palette, where characters will develop a variety of messages via interconnected conversations over the span of a single film.Jenner first gained recognition for his role in the latter seasons of FOX’s “Glee,” in which he played Ryder Lynn after winning a spot on the show from reality competition “The Glee Project.”
For Hoechlin, most recognizable as Derek Hale from MTV’s “Teen Wolf,” identity stands as the most important theme.
“I think [it’s about] not being afraid to be who you are,” Hoechlin said. “I think my favorite line in the movie is … ‘Always bring who you are, never who they want.’ I thought it was such a great new way of saying ‘Be yourself.’ It’s just so much more fun when you kind of embrace what you are and who you are and what you think, as opposed to trying to fit into some box that somebody else might put you in.”
A lot is communicated throughout “Everybody Wants Some!!” and very little actually happens. What does happen, though, is big — a young man’s realization that there are barriers and chances to start anew at every turn, and he has to learn when to breach what frontiers while remaining honest with himself.
It’s remarkable, then, and distinctly Linklater that the process of making the film would lead its creators to the very same conclusion.