So there have been films that are controversial, a few that spring to mind are Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) and Lars Von Triers Antichrist (2009). Some films have even been banned, like Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, (though this example was later reissued after Kubrick’s death). I say this because films that have themes that offend or disgust are nothing new. Similarly, people have walked out of films for a variety of reasons, they may be due to the controversial topics, the film was too scary, or simply it just wasn’t very good. But why do I bring all this up? Well hopefully it will provide a certain level of context to the story that I am about to tell.
I went to see Richard Linklater’s new film 80’s period sex comedy Everybody Wants Some!! which was showing as part of Odeon’s ‘Screen Unseen’, where, for those who don’t know, you pay £5 to see a film that is not yet released, without knowing what the film is going to be. Some of the films have been great, like The Big Short (Adam McKay, 2015), The Revenant (Alejandro G. Iñarritu, 2015), some have been alright like Demolition (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2016) and some have been kind of bad, like Black Mass (Scott Cooper, 2015). So me and my friends were well aware of the gamble, and were excepting of a subpar film because it is only £5. However Everybody Wants Some!! (the exclamations points are important) made us leave.
Before I explain why me and my friends decided to leave the film behind, I will first introduce the plot. Everybody Wants Some!! follows college freshman Jake (Blake Jenner), a baseball scholar, who moves into a house shared by his team mates at the Southeast Texas in late summer of 1980. We meet a group of colourful characters ranging from the comparatively normal Finnegan (Glen Powell) and Dale (Quinton Johnson), the bullies, Kenny Roper (Ryan Guzman) and Glen McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), stoner Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), the stupid Coma (Forrest Vickery) and the downright weird Jay Niles (Juston Street). The film from what I saw seemed to follow this rag tag group drinking, trying to pull and behaving like typical macho bro douchebags before school starts.
The marketing had a few major focuses, the fist being that it was made Richard Linklater. I have an interesting relationship with the films of Linklater; I really like some, School of Rock (2003) and A Scanner Darkley (2006) and I really hate others like Waking Life (2001) and while I can appreciate his style of meandering pontificating and why others may see it as a deconstruction of the Hollywood three act structure norm, I find it to be pointless pretension. I think that I can grow to like some of his films, I enjoyed some of Slacker (1991) in its absurd characters and single wandering critical camera. But that it is because it was critical of its subjects, it did not revel in a time period or in vile characters.
The second was that it was a coming of age comedy. The problem was it was not very funny, yes there were some weird characters, but they are mean, cruel and sexist. Every word that seemed to come out of their mouths was an insult or a demeaning slur of words referring to the amount of times they got laid, hot girls or how much they hate their team mates. The sexist and misogynist behaviour of the cast would be excusable if the film criticised these attitudes and if the camera didn’t take part in the obvious objectification. The first shot, not of the main character in the main film is an up-pan of a group of girls. While this may be a point of view shot of a horny 18 year old boy, the fact that there is the same shot three times over the space of 20-30 minutes is just baffling. Similarly there is out of place slow-motion and a sex montage with disrobing ladies left right and most often centre. Perhaps most unforgivably there was a shot of a naked bum, centre frame, no reason, just titillation. It was at this point that one of my friends was done, and we left the cinema shortly after.
The third and final selling point of the film was the time period in which the film was set. The end of the 70’s is perfectly recreated, records, disco, arcades and all. Being a 20 something I did not grow up during this time period, but I have an appreciation for the music and media that was instilled in me by my parents. The sound track for example is packed with feel good late 70s hits that I found myself grooving along to in my seat. However a friend of mine pointed out that they didn’t do anything with these references, just showing us that they existed at the time. He said quite rightly that while I was enjoying the pop culture references and music, it was because I recognised them, not because the film was doing anything interesting with the period. Everybody Wants Some!! is clearly made for those who remember the 80’s as a nostalgia bump, but it is too heavily invested in the period, outdated attitudes and all.
Willoughby while playing Foosball at an arcade said something that perfectly encapsulates how my friends felt while watching the film. “This is supposed to be fun and I am not having it”. This film was supposed to be fun, but we were not enjoying the film at all and I being the most lenient of the three of us was only enjoying sections of the film.
Take what I have said with a grain of salt. I haven’t seen the whole film and maybe it changes after the point me and my friends left the theatre. I am basing these arguments on the first 45 minutes and the marketing, which is very “Professional” of me. The trailers of the film seemed to promise something that the film did not deliver for me. I will probably give the film another chance, by that I mean I will be going to see it again, to watch it all the way through so I can be more qualified to explain why the film works, or doesn’t. I cannot pass full judgement because I have not seen the full film. But from what I saw so far, the film is definitely flawed, coasting on time period nostalgia and the name brand recognition of Richard Linklater.