By Lauren Chval – Redeye – 03.31.16
Though he’s approaching 30 and his days of playing college baseball at UC Irvine are far behind him, “Everybody Wants Some” star Tyler Hoechlin compared giving up a sport to Jaime Lannister losing his hand in “Game of Thrones.”
“This is such a dramatic way of putting it: When you die as an athlete, it’s literally a part of you that dies,” Hoechlin (“Teen Wolf”) said at The Langham hotel. “It’s part of who you are. I still cling to that. I still call myself a baseball player. Because that’s so much a part of who I was growing up, and I still don’t know fully who I am without that being a piece of it. It’s definitely a tough thing when you let that go.”
That struggle lies at the heart of the film, opening April 1 and starring an ensemble cast that includes Hoechlin, Blake Jenner (“Glee”) and Will Brittain (“Lila and Eve”) as members of a 1980 Texas college baseball team moving into their house the weekend before the school year starts. A countdown clock ticks off the seconds until that first Monday morning class, always reminding the audience that something is slipping away.
It’s a familiar point for writer-director Richard Linklater. After all, chronicling a boy’s childhood from 6 to 18 (“Boyhood”), checking in on a couple’s relationship every nine years (“Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight”), meandering with a group of teenagers on their last day of high school (“Dazed and Confused”) … if you were going to make an argument that the filmmaker is obsessed with time, you wouldn’t find a shortage of evidence.
Maintaining that focus along with Linklater’s familiar indifference toward plot (as in, there barely is one), “Everybody Wants Some” dismisses any idea of a traditional narrative with a laugh and a haze of smoke—it takes a long time to realize the major, story-propelling incident you’re waiting for isn’t coming. It’s a neat trick; simultaneously wishing that things would get started and feeling like they’re slipping away is a universally experienced state of mind, a contradiction that hit home with Hoechlin.
“You’re always looking at what’s coming up next and how much time you have left,” the 28-year-old actor said. “If I could tell anybody anything, I would say, ‘Stop looking at that. Just look at today.’ Because then all of a sudden it’s kind of gone.”
Sports in particular present the challenge of existing in a moment—an athlete must forget the last play and focus on the current one. Hoechlin said Linklater expressed the belief that, “You can’t grow up until you stop playing sports,” and some members of the team are more aware of this than others.
Jenner, 23, stars as Jake, a freshman pitcher eager to prove himself, and Brittain, 25, is his roommate Billy, a freshman who can always be found by following the phone cord (’80s = landlines) as he talks with his girlfriend back home. Hoechlin’s character, McReynolds, faces very different challenges—he’s the team’s veteran hitter, coming to a fork that either heads to playing pro ball or saying goodbye to baseball forever, a feeling the actor knows all too well.
On campus, the guys of “Everybody Wants Some” are eager to categorize themselves as baseball players instead of just explaining themselves by their chosen major. Beyond being afraid to grow up, they’re scared of losing their identity or, as one character puts it, “never being more than some dude doing some job just like everybody else.” As actors, it’s not a stretch for Hoechlin, Jenner and Brittain to relate to that—Brittain said that as a kid, he was so scared of being ordinary that he was serious about becoming a professional tornado chaser.
But as intent as the characters are on being known as baseball players, a major point of the film is their willingness to assume temporary identities in the interest of getting laid. They’ll dance at a disco, ride a bull in a country bar, rock out at a punk show and don costumes at a theater party in an effort to win over a girl.
Jenner’s character questions the phoniness of this approach, but he’s assured by upperclassman guru Finn (played by Glen Powell, who channels Matthew McConaughey’s “Dazed and Confused” character to great effect) that it’s simply adaptive.
“I think it’s only phony if you abuse it,” Jenner said when asked about that strategy. “If you’re going out and you’re just trying something new but you’re yourself that whole time, you’re just kind of gaining knowledge from this experience, that’s adaptive. But if I go in, and I’m trying to just be a pick-up artist [and] I’m doing it solely to pick up chicks … that’s phony.”
Brittain agreed, adding that everyone changes their behavior based on who they’re with, not just guys looking for someone to take home—that anyone would act differently with their family than they do with their co-workers. Hoechlin wouldn’t take a side, saying it could be both phony and adaptive.
But that’s the key to “Everybody Wants Some.” What it lacks in traditional story structure (the girl, played by Zoey Deutch of “Dirty Grandpa,” doesn’t even become a factor until late in the game), it makes up for with open-ended conversation about what it means to be young and alive. Set in a summer more than three decades ago, it’s nostalgic for another time but also nostalgic for the possibilities that come with youth.
“In college, you’re always ready to get to the next thing,” Brittain said. “It’s like when you get to the next thing, things are really going to be happening, you know?”
“It doesn’t change,” Jenner added.