New Lin­klater film sur­pris­ingly deep

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - MOVIES - By Mark Olsen Los An­ge­les Times

Richard Lin­klater may be the big­gest maker of lit­tle films in Amer­i­can cin­ema. With his re­gion­al­ist speci­ficity and di­vin­ing-rod in­tu­ition for the emo­tional core of even the most in­con­se­quen­tial mo­ments, his movies of­ten mask their own per­cep­tive­ness. His lat­est, the os­ten­si­ble col­lege com­edy “Every­body Wants Some!!” is like a stream that looks shal­low but once you’re in the mid­dle of it reveals an un­fore­seen depth.

Writ­ten and di­rected by Lin­klater, who calls it a “spir­i­tual se­quel” to his high school-set 1993 film “Dazed and Con­fused,” the new film is his first since 2014’s “Boy­hood.” That 12-years-in-the­mak­ing project dared to ex­pand the mun­dan­i­ties of ev­ery­day life and the sim­ple no­tion of time pass­ing into some­thing grandly epic. In “Every­body Wants Some!!” the ex­cite­ment of the ti­tle’s twin ex­cla­ma­tion points stands in coun­ter­point to the ca­sual vibe con­jured up, as the film ex­am­ines the ca­ma­raderie and in­ter­nal com­pet­i­tive­ness within a base­ball team at a re­gional Texas school in its off-hours and how all the play­ers’ bravado and shenani­gans come to­gether once the team is on the field. The lit­tle things mat­ter and add up.

Lin­klater him­self played base­ball at a small Texas col­lege, so for all its ease, the film has a con­stant un­der­cur­rent of emo­tional truth. Over the course of a Thurs­day af­ter­noon to a Mon­day morn­ing the week­end be­fore classes start, the play­ers find them­selves mov­ing from their ramshackle hous­ing to a disco, a country bar, a punk club and an art stu­dent party, maybe chang­ing their shirts a bit to fit in more from place to place.

The stand-in for both Lin­klater and the au­di­ence in th­ese over­lap­ping realms of col­lege, the team, the dif­fer­ent so­cial spa­ces, is a newly ar­rived fresh­man pitcher named Jake (Blake Jen­ner). He quickly picks up that as they move through th­ese realms, they are dab­bling as if at some kind of per­son­al­ity buf­fet, try­ing a bit of this and a touch of that. Yet they also make that feel some­how gen­uine, an ethos best ar­tic­u­lated by the self-styled philoso­pher and pick-up artist Fin­negan (Glen Pow­ell, giv­ing one of the film’s stand­out per­for­mances), who even­tu­ally reveals a level of both in­se­cu­rity and self-un­der­stand­ing that is oth­er­wise masked be­hind his blus­ter.

The film is also set very specif­i­cally in Au­gust 1980, so that the cul­tural 1970s are not quite over but the 1980s have not yet re­ally be­gun. A cam­pus cam­paign booth for Jimmy Carter is just about the only nod to cur­rent events in the film, as it is more con­cerned with the ex­pressly per­sonal than even the im­plic­itly po­lit­i­cal. Set­ting the movie in some­thing of a cul­tural tran­si­tional zone also al­lows for a wide range of mu­sic blast­ing from stereo speak­ers and in lo­cal haunts.

Even­tu­ally th­ese base­ball play­ers ac­tu­ally play some base­ball, and all their dis­con­nected mo­ments and ex­pe­ri­ences be­gin to form a co­he­sive whole. A self-ag­gran­diz­ing pitcher played by Jus­ton Street — who pro­vides the film with some of its strong­est, and strangest, comic re­lief — faces off against the team’s star and leader, played by Tyler Hoech­lin. They ex­change heated words and a fierce con­fronta­tion on the field, but mo­ments later come to a mo­ment of mu­tual, quiet un­der­stand­ing con­veyed with only a few words and a con­vivial pat on the butt (that ges­ture hav­ing been pre­vi­ously played for laughs be­fore sud­denly gain­ing an un­ex­pected, un­spo­ken res­o­nance). Base­ball is por­trayed as a team sport that nev­er­the­less cel­e­brates the in­di­vid­ual, what one player calls the “in­ner strange,” where the idio­syn­cratic and es­o­teric can still con­trib­ute to some­thing larger.

“Dazed and Con­fused” had a less cen­tral­ized story, as there was a wider swath of char­ac­ters across grades and so­cial spheres that it show­cased as co-leads, in­clud­ing scenes fea­tur­ing the ex­pe­ri­ences of girls out­side the view of guys. In com­par­i­son, “Every­body Wants Some!!” feels slightly di­min­ished: By stick­ing so close to the ex­pe­ri­ences of a team of ballplay­ers, it is of­ten trapped with the 1980 at­ti­tudes of a group of young men and the way they talk and act about women when on their own. While his play­ers do show an at-times nascent sen­si­tiv­ity, Lin­klater stum­bles with some gra­tu­itous T&A and an in­con­gru­ous scene of fe­male mud-wrestling.

Ac­tress Zoey Deutch is sweet as a girl pur­sued by Jake, but as the only sig­nif­i­cant fe­male role, it winds up feel­ing slight. If Lin­klater hadn’t got­ten the boy-girl di­vide so spot-on in “Dazed and Con­fused,” the in­ter­nal con­flict over the de­pic­tion of women and men in “Every­body Wants Some!!” wouldn’t feel so glar­ing.


Zoey Deutch plays Bev­erly and Blake Jen­ner plays Jake in “Every­body Wants Some!!”

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