Richard Linklater loves boys. Oh, um, I don’t mean that, okay, give me a second. All right. Richard Linklater makes art about boys. I mean: it’s his focus. It’s his main interest. Two years ago, after years and years and years of hard work, Linklater brought his most critically adored film, Boyhood, to the big screen. Boyhood took a dozen years to film, following the life of—you guessed it—a young boy from early childhood until he leaves for college. It was a profoundly moving piece of film-making, yet another wonderful addition to a career that already included the Before trilogy, School Of Rock, and Dazed and Confused.
In fact, it’s the raucous, playful tone of Dazed and Confused that feels most like Linklater’s latest film Everybody Wants Some!! (Two exclamation points!!) It is the month of August, it is 1980, and like many good Linklater films, we’re back in Texas. Jake (Blake Jenner) is driving to college with “My Sharona” blasting on the tape deck. The entirety of Everybody Wants Some!! takes place over the course of Jake’s first weekend of college, spent almost exclusively with his baseball teammates.
You want memorable characters? Everybody Wants Some!! has only memorable characters. Jake might be our entrypoint—our handsome, broad-shouldered, bright-eyed new pitcher—but every other member of the team has a specific draw to him. McReynolds (Teen Wolf’s Tyler Hoechlin in a role that might make me, um, start watching Teen Wolf) is a mustachio’d, crop-top wearing alpha male. Willoughby (Wyatt Russell) is their benevolent stoner. Douglas (J. Quinton Johnson) is a handsome and charming ladies’ man (maybe the only one in the bunch). Niles (Juston Street) is the transfer player from Detroit and he is a presence—tall and threatening with giant glasses, constantly referring to himself as the “Raw Dog.” And of course there’s Finnegan (Glen Powell, a revelation) as our guide, our shepherd, our wise idiot. And that’s not all of the boys, no, not at all. These are the ones I remember most vividly, but every character is funny and true and perfect. No one is an archetype. They’re people.
You’ll notice, maybe, in that sea of characters that I didn’t list any girls. Well, there is a girl; singular. The Girl, Beverly (Zoey Deutch) is a quiet, theater major who takes an interest in Jake. And why not? They’re both nervous, kind freshman. She likes that he’s not as boisterous or sleazy as his teammates. He likes that she’s…I don’t know, cute? She is cute and earnest and kind. Girls don’t have to be much more than that, especially when the other female roles are defined as “Country Girl” and “Mud Wrestling Champion” and “Buxom Coed” or—if you can believe it!—”Friend Of Buxom Coed.”
And here is the problem, I suppose, with me and Everybody Wants Some!!. I know this is a movie about boys. I knew going into it that it was a movie about boys and how boys live and how boys perceive things. There is a line in the film that goes: “When we’re playing baseball, all we talk about is pussy, and when we’re talking to girls, all we can talk about is baseball.” I’m paraphrasing, but the sentiment is correct. It doesn’t hurt me to see boys talk about girls like that; I know they do.
Where my heart breaks, only a little, is knowing we could never have an all-female version of Everybody Wants Some!!. Do you know what I mean? The thought of a movie about a dozen girls, all different and wonderful and specific and not all nice and charming. I guess you’ll tell me this movie exists and it’s called Pitch Perfect and actually there are two of them. That’s fair. Those movies have a lot of female characters. But those films are big and broad; they’re for everyone. They don’t have the quiet wisdom of a Richard Linklater movie. They don’t have the scope, the depth. They don’t have time to be introspective without the fear of having to state a theme. They don’t have subtlety. So much media about women has to scream, “this is about women!” without letting them be, well, women.
It’s weird we have to fight for “female versions” of movies these days, isn’t it? It’s weird that we have to remake movies about men in order see women on the big screen. I roll my eyes at an all-female Ghostbusters and I roll my eyes at the sorority-centric Neighbors sequel. The idea of an all-female Ocean’s 11 makes me want to tear out my hair. I don’t want stories retold for the sake of a female lens. I don’t want to be catered to a decade after the fact. I just want to see original stories with so many women talking and existing and learning and laughing and growing. It’s a weird thing we have settled for.
I know I’m supposed to review the movie I saw and not the movie I wanted to see. The movie I saw was funny and heartfelt and specific and wonderful. I could have listened to these boys talk for another two hours and another two hours more. The movie I wanted to see doesn’t exist. At least, not yet. I loved so much of Everybody Wants Some!! but I couldn’t help how much more I would love it if it had opened with a girl driving off to college. Sun shining, windows rolled down, “My Sharona” blasting on the tape deck. I want to see so many different types of girls living in a house together: tall, short, fat, thin, blondes, brunettes, women of any race. I don’t need to see them coming together and stating their differences and learning and growing because of it. Fuck that, I want to see them party. I want to see them hang out. I want to see them fearless, jumping into a swimming hole, going out, meeting guys, drinking, fighting, with a non-judgmental directorial eye letting them live as they are.
When I think about the scandal of diversity in Hollywood, I think less about what is nominated for an Oscar and more about the types of muses I want to see. I want the subject of girls and of people of color to be the types of muses that boys—young, male characters, with all of their faults and charm displayed on screen without making a Statement—are for Richard Linklater. I want to see characters other than boys exist on screen and watch them play and learn (sort of, well, not really) with no consequence other than they learn what it is to be alive.
This is the movie I want, but it’s not here. Not yet, I’d like to think. So while I wait, I have Everybody Wants Some!!. It’s good. It really is wonderful. I think of a young boy seeing this film and loving it wholeheartedly, watching what he feels like could be his life in another world. And I think of me, knowing I’ll see myself in another world one day, too.