If you’ve seen the trailer for Richard Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some!!” you’ll experience deja vu when you hear the opening beats of The Knack’s “My Sharona,” as the film begins. “My Sharona,” while a potent earworm, is an excellent song to use if you want your characters to do something mellow but determined, such as dance around a convenience store with your friends (like Winona Ryder and co. did in “Reality Bites”) or head off to your freshman year of college, as Jake (Blake Jenner) does. Blake’s coolness quotient was already high with me, considering he arrives at Texas Southeast University (not absolutely sure if that’s the name of the place) in a car of his own, a milk crate of sweet eighties’ era albums, and no parents in tow – but to the upperclassmen who share his house (donated to the school for the baseball team to use due to dorm overcrowding), he’s a fresh-face newbie in need of some serious schooling in the ways of this new world. That includes Wyatt Russell, Glen Powell, J. Quinton Jonathan (as the token black guy), who take Blake under their wing, as well as the other freshmen. The movie focuses on the precious free time before classes begin, which they fill with drinking, getting high, clubbing, getting lucky (at least sometimes), and all the other things that their parents would disapprove of. The single authority figure present is their new coach, who makes a token speech about avoiding drinking and girls (at least in the house itself), but then conveniently disappears for most of the film.
Blake is unfortunate enough to get the world’s worst roommate ever (the humorless country hick Will Brittain), but has better luck bonding with some of his other teammates, who scoff at his desire to unpack and take him out for a drive around the school, where they attempt to impress various coeds with their manliness by inviting them to a party. One young woman (Zoey Deutch) catches the eye of Blake, though it will take awhile before the two get together. Zoey is a first year drama major, and she and Blake eventually commiserate over the fact that now they are just little fish in a big pond, so to speak. But before they have a chance to start bonding, Blake is whisked off to a series of clubs and parties, each featuring a different theme. In his down time, he hangs out with his teammates, competing in just about everything, including Ping-Pong. He also gets high with his newfound buddies, led by Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), who treats them to his thoughts on Van Halen, life and mind-reading with the conviction that Rory Cochrane displayed in “Dazed and Confused,” when explaining what a hip lady Martha Washington was. Eventually, they begin baseball practice and start actual classes, and though J. Quinton Jonathan informs them that they are each on their own now, it seems likely that they will remain close – or close-ish.
I was a little worried that there were going to be lots of hazing scenes, a la “Dazed and Confused,” but there’s just the one featured in the trailer (“Freshmen batting practice!”), plus Linklater knows that any resentment can quickly dissipate after everyone gets together to cool off (literally). Like that movie, there’s lots of philosophizing, though except for Zoey, there aren’t any developed female characters here. Still, there are a few hints that Linklater is poking gentle fun at this crew, such as when one finally succeeds with a girl, who responds to his claim that he’s the strong silent type with definite interest. The characters may not always express themselves in the most eloquent of ways, but they’re very right when they point out that college is all about finding who you are, or as Zoey puts it, “having the courage to look dumb.” As another tells Will who’s steamed at being the butt of a joke, everyone has moments when they’re a chump, and the thing to do is just accept your chump-ness and move on.