You’ve cast all kinds of movies; silly comedies (Bad Grandpa), rom-coms (He’s Just Not That Into You), period pieces (Bobby), quirky cult classics (Being John Malkovich), and the sequel to an enormously popular movie (Hangover 2). But I imagine this is the first time you were tasked with casting a “spiritual sequel”- a film that manages to be all of the above and more.
If the double exclamation marks in the title aren’t obvious, Everybody Wants Some!! doesn’t expect to be taken too seriously. It is a comedy, to be sure, but it isn’t afraid to explore the edge of that chasm between adolescence and adulthood without robbing the characters of their simple pursuits; pussy, partying, and baseball. There is no malice in any of the characters, no heavy drama or climactic intent, and yet they are all, in their own way, nuanced and real. Which is why it must have been rather challenging for you to cast them. But it was probably a hell of a lot of fun too.
Everybody Wants Some!! opens on the last weekend of August 1980, with Jake’s arrival at college for his freshman year. Over the course of the next three days, Jake will meet and bond with his fellow baseball teammates in their campus house, and attempt to woo Beverly, an elusive theatre arts freshman.
Everybody Wants Some!! carries the weight of expectations from its beloved predecessor Dazed and Confused with the ease of a classic leather Adidas duffel slung casually over its shoulder. This little sibling to the 1993 stoner classic shares just the right amount of celluloid DNA to make it feel comfortably familiar, yet is self-assured enough to succeed on its own merit. You are largely to credit for this.
What set Dazed and Confused apart from copycat 70s throwback comedies of the 90s was its talented and mostly unknown young cast. Their performances proved that it takes more than period costumes and a killer soundtrack for a film to resonate with audiences across all demographics. That film launched the careers of stars like Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Milla Jovovich, and of course, Matthew McConaughey. I predict the same type of success for many of your casting choices here.
Jake is our entry point into the world of college, and Blake Jenner plays him as an affable newbie with hidden depth. It’s easy to see why he falls for the cool but sweet Beverly, played by Zooey Deutch (an actor I praised here before). But much like the soundtrack that covers the diverse range of music on offer in 1980 - NewWave, punk rock, disco, arena rock, rap and country - it’s the supporting characters who give the movie its flavour and dimension. Finn, the elder statesman and sage who smokes a pipe, McReynolds the dickish captain, Nesbit the loveable loser, Willoughby the hippie, Roper the playboy, Dale the know-it-all – all read as flimsy stereotypes until they’re given life. Audiences would be wise to remember the names Glen Powell, Tyler Hochelin, Austin Amelio, Wyatt Russell, Ryan Guzman and J. Quinton Johnson, all of whom I’m sure we’ll see again.
If I had to pick one stand-out – and a character I’m sure it wasn’t easy to cast – it would be Jay, the intense, big-league obsessed pitcher played by Juston Street. Where Dazed and Confused had McConaughey’s Wooderson, who was all laid back charm and good vibes, Street’s Jay is a bundle of pent up rage fuelled by an over-sized ego and under-served libido. Even just watching him stand in a scene, motionless and speechless, invoked mad laughter from the screening audience. This is a character destined for cult status.
It’s a rare director that can revisit a formula that he aced more than two decades ago and still manage to deliver something fresh, let alone fun. Linklater understands intuitively that all the most satisfying stories are about the journey and not the destination. His meandering style works here especially because we’re given such enjoyable characters to follow. We don’t learn much about them throughout the course of the film, we’re mere observers watching them slip in and out of the new decade’s ever-evolving social landscapes with varying degrees of success. It’s their collective vulnerability that belies the film’s supposed light-hearted comedy intentions. At the film’s end, the woman beside me said to her partner, “oh, it’s over? I could watch these guys for another two hours.” I could have too.