Over the next two weeks, The Atlantic will delve into some of the most interesting films of the year by examining a single, noteworthy moment and unpacking what it says about 2016. Today is Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! (The whole “And, Scene” series will appear here.)
When it was released in March, Everybody Wants Some!! may have seemed desperately out of step with the moment. Set in 1980, at the dawn of the Reagan era, Richard Linklater’s film (billed as a “spiritual sequel” to his Dazed and Confused) follows the exploits of a college baseball team over a weekend as they go to parties, hit on women, trade philosophical observations through a haze of bong smoke, and generally try to have a no-strings-attached good time. They succeed on all counts. Linklater’s bet—that viewers would care about the frivolous antics of these overflowing fountains of testosterone—was a pretty risky one.
But there’s something special about Everybody Wants Some!! (so-named after the Van Halen song that is the centerpiece the film’s spectacular soundtrack): a strangely egalitarian sense to the gang’s low-stakes capers. They mingle with every social clique—jocks, fraternity brothers, punks, theater kids—but do so on the group’s terms. If the main characters get rejected by a woman, they take it in a stride; their baser energies are directed toward competitive sports and healthily mocking each other. No scene more sums up the film’s simple joys than the scene when, during a beer run, The Sugarhill Gang’s pioneering 1979 hit “Rapper’s Delight” comes on the radio, and everyone starts to rap along.
The new pitcher Jake Bradford (Blake Jenner), the star of the film, is sitting in the backseat with Dale (J. Quinton Johnson) and Tyrone (Temple Baker). Kenny (Ryan Guzman) is driving while the energetic Finn (Glen Powell), who’s clearly been at school for more than a few years now, launches into the song’s first verse. “See, I am Wonder Finn, and I’d like to say hello,” he haltingly raps, subbing in his own name for Wonder Mike’s. “To the black to the white, the red and the brown / The purple and yellow.”