Frontiers are where you find them.
I haven’t written much about movies for awhile now. Mostly due to work, family and other outside interests, but I haven’t really felt the immediate need to scribble down my pearls of wisdom regarding my film viewing. It’s not that I haven’t seen anything good or that I haven’t thought of anything to write about, but there’s been a definite lack of “passion” towards expressing my thoughts down in pixels.
But then a film like Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! comes along and specifically speaks to passion – and not just in an overly simplified generic “follow your bliss and do what you love” kind of way. Through its casual, “let’s all hangout” vibe, it suggests an open, accepting, come-what-may approach to life that embraces the uncertainty ahead and suggests that there’s no rush to find out exactly who you are. Just make sure you enjoy the process. That sounds a bit dangerously close to the cliche that “it’s the journey not the destination”, but the film is never that reductive (even if it does occasionally feel a bit overly written in some of its philosophical meanderings).
The story centres around a university freshman named Jake who is about to start his baseball scholarship and takes place completely within the 4 days before the start of classes in the Fall of 1980. Jake meets his housemates/teammates, parties with them and engages with life. That’s pretty much the extent of the plot. Actually, usage of the word “plot” here may be an overstatement. The movie is about interacting with your environment, the people in it, what they bring to it and what you can give back. There’s no major 2nd act conflict, no life changing moment and very little tension as our characters converse, drink, compete, drink, annoy each other, drink and philosophize – usually with a beverage in their hand. And it is so incredibly refreshing to just simply spend time with them.
They aren’t always sparkling with wit and charm, but each of the members of the team – just like the baseball split in two by the beefy batting star – has more underneath their standard issue exterior. One of the joys of the film is discovering that whatever judgements are passed on others aren’t strict or final. People are called names and sorted into categories (freshmen, jocks, artsies, bitches, etc.), but are always allowed to prove they can be viewed beyond that. There’s a great scene where Jake is walking with his new jock buddies and comes across his old high school friend who is now living in a house with a bunch of punks (remember, this is 1980). Without so much as a brief “geez, I wonder what the guys will think…”, Jake hugs his old friend and invites his teammates to have a beer with the punks and accompany them to a 4-band punk show. There’s a little bit of resistance, but the senior Finnegan is wide open to experiences like this and happily agrees. After walking into the club, Jake briefly questions what they’ve been doing over the last few nights – a pub, a disco, a country & western bar and now punk music? Finn waves him off easily and reminds him of their ability to find the fun in each of those places. They weren’t being schizophrenic or attempting to fit into those varying establishments, but simply let things happen, found enjoyment (and usually a girl or two) and even discovered something new. At that, the band kicks into a punk version of the Gilligan’s Island theme and they both hit the floor pogo-ing like maniacs.
Though Linklater’s Dazed And Confused is the obvious elder cousin to Everybody Wants Some!! there is no direct linkage and many differences. His latest really only follows the perspective of Jake and never really leaves the flow of his experiences. He’s not always in frame or even in the room, but he’s nearby and will become part of the scene. The days seem awfully packed due to this construct, but that is easily accepted since no one is in a rush to get anywhere or immediately complete anything and the timeframe is grounded with occasional day and time references. The sole male perspective of events also only really has room for one major female character – however, she’s a really good one…Beverly, a drama major, is very passionate about her own pursuits and just as eager as Jake to explore where their conversations and chemistry will lead.
Finn could probably answer some of the questions posed in “Dazed”. As one of the high schoolers asks “What are we preparing ourselves for?” and “Shouldn’t we be enjoying ourselves now?”, he might respond with “Live each day and that’ll prepare you for the rest of your life.” and “What’s stopping you from enjoying yourself right now?”. An early shot of Jake driving to school in “Everybody” reminds of the sobering closing shot of “Dazed” – however instead of the nothingness of the horizon, Jake sees numerous things rising into view through his window. Countless frontiers to be crossed and explored. What a great way to look at life.