Film: A ‘boys on tour’ comedy with hidden depths

In his critically lauded 2014 film, Boyhood, American writer-director Richard Linklater created a coming-of-age story like no other, filmed as it was over a 12-year period. That epic time-frame is curtailed dramatically in his latest effort Everybody Wants Some!! (15, 117 mins, ★★★), which covers a weekend in the life of a bunch of college frat boys. But the thematic preoccupations with male adolescence and the passing of time remain the same.

Jake (Blake Jenner), a fresh-faced recruit to a Texan college’s baseball team, arrives at his shared accommodation to meet teammates and get stuck in to student life, which he hopes will mainly involve smoking weed, getting drunk and meeting girls. It’s not long before he is being taught the hierarchy of his new team, of which as a freshman he’s categorically on the lowest rung, and swept along to a series of parties, clubs and drinking sessions.

In the opening two thirds we get all the familiar tropes of the campus comedy, with the crude, snappy dialogue, frenetic party scenes and oddball characters, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark. The antics of the jocks become repetitive, and even though the script is peppered with some witty lines, there is a desperate lack of genuine laugh-out-loud moments.

There’s also a failed attempt to diversify the group of lads, but the characters who could have brought genuine contrast to the “boys on tour” vibe remain either under-explored (Will Brittain’s cowboy outsider), or hammed up to a jarring degree, as in the case of eccentric pitcher Jay Niles (Juston Street). Both in terms of humour and characterisation, Linklater fared much better with the joyous School of Rock, and it’s a shame he couldn’t hit similar heights here.

Despite these drawbacks, Everybody Wants Some!! gives us plenty to grapple with. Linklater is too intelligent a filmmaker to simply give us frat-boy antics without nuance or depth. The film is beautifully shot – airy and bright – and this undercuts the testosterone-fuelled action by creating an atmosphere of wistful nostalgia.

This gentle feeling teases its way into the story as it enters its final section. Jake meets and seems to fall in love with a beautiful theatre student, Beverly, played superbly by Zoey Deutch. The film, via Jake, reveals its hidden depths and true purpose. There’s no grand revelation or dramatic coming of age. Instead, we get a simple evocation of how growing up is a gradual, unfathomable process: a reminder that looking back on our youth is a bittersweet thing.