EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! (2016, Richard Linklater)
The worst period pieces are those that derive jokes or mockery from earlier eras. Movies that wink at how silly and old-fashioned things used to be; how we didn’t know then what we know now. But filmmakers get no points from me for being alive today and able to make fun of how slowly fax machines ran or how heavy computers were. What Linklater does in his period films is far more difficult and way more admirable: he coats a nostalgic picture book with a real sense of these scenes existing in the present for all people involved. And the audience feels like they’re right there with the characters.
The jocks of 1980 Texas have the requisite mustaches and short shorts, dancing to disco and talking on corded rotary dial phones. But they’re just living their lives, and the utter sincerity on display makes all your cynicism and critical distance disappear. This is what it means to have just come to college: a priceless, ephemeral age after childhood and before adulthood. Anything is possible. You can drink all night and not get hung over. You have stamina and optimism. You find new friends. New crushes. New interests. You take risks, because there’s so little to lose and so much to gain. No filmmaker understands this better than Linklater, and his pack of loutish dudebros become an endearing example of that passing snapshot of life you might never have fully appreciated until it’s over.
A brief scene shows the teammates leaping off a swinging rope into a lake. There’s little dialogue aside from the ribbing and showboating, but the imagery of young men in flight as they let go of something and plunge into the waters below is a beautiful encapsulation of how we dare to explore, fearlessly, at this time in our development. Another great scene is when our hero Jake initially tries to shed his bros in order to go to a party alone in pursuit of a girl, but then realizes how selfish he’d been, turning 180 to charmingly implore his friends to come along — even though there’s nothing more out of place than a dozen jocks at a party full of theater kids.
But there’s a sad side too: one athlete thinks everyone else is going to end up lame in a dead-end job, either failing to realize or choosing to deny the fact that pro sports has no longevity or security. There’s a melancholy to the difference between how wide-eyed and eager these kids are, and how cruel and disappointing the world they’re about to enter will be to them. But Linklater isn’t admonishing them for this optimism: he’s embracing it, because we all end up dead and alone but it’s how you handle the way there that matters. As in his best films, BEFORE SUNRISE and BOYHOOD, there’s a streak of humanistic existentialism to EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! that is nearly tear-jerking. When Jake ultimately does imagine Sisyphus happy, there’s no surprise at all that that’s when Beverly finally kisses him.