(This post is inspired, in part, by Soraya Simi’s Film School Blog. She writes much smarter articles about filmmaking than I do.)
I initially thought (from the first few scenes) that Everybody Wants Some would be another typical 70s college movie from the dialogue, themes, forced unfunny jokes, and awkward lack of genuine connection between the characters. When characters in the cracked a one-liner, very few people in the audience laughed. However, there were genuinely hilarious moments not only in, but throughout the entire film, and once I realized that the movie knew how to be funny when it wanted to, I understood that the unfunny, awkward forced jokes were intentional, and there was more to the movie than what I naively assumed.
Everybody Wants Some is set in the magical week between when Jake (the protagonist) moves into his college town, and the first day of class. Much like the reality of the scenario, the moments bleed together, and the scenes don’t feel as though they have distinct endings and beginnings. The strong current of new information, exciting stimuli, friend-group dynamics, and seemingly urgent events always pulled me through these moments in my life, and the movie does the same. I was kept so ‘in the moment’ with the story that I often forgot what the main character’s motivation was, how we got there, or what I was supposed to be worrying about. Instead, my mind was fully captivated from the details of the scene around me. I spent my time reading the body language of the girls the main character danced and flirted with, studying the patterns of the different members of the friend group so that I could get to know them better, and trying to understand the relationships between the older members of the team. This to me is the mark of an excellent film, when you forget that you’re watching a movie because you are so captivated by the moments around you. The only elements that pulled me back to reality were the incredibly uncanny moments that were so familiar that I asked myself haven’t I been here before? Didn’t I know someone exactly like that? Didn’t I had this exact same conversation in college? The detailed realism is what makes this highly atypical college movie so fascinating. It isn’t mundane, and it isn’t fantastical. It’s the perfect balance of relatable and introspective that also managed to occasionally bring me to the edge of my seat.
The best way I can describe this movie in in the following statement. It is a genuine simulation of what it actually feels like to be a part of a group of male friends. This is something I would have not appreciated, understood or enjoyed until recently. Growing up, I did have a strong tribe of male friends (I usually had female friends outnumber male), excluding ages 12-14 and 15-18 (and now). Connecting with males was always confusing to me. In college (and before) I felt like I never knew how to get past even the most basic social hurdles, like: how to tell if a guy enjoys my company, thinks I’m interesting, wants to hang out with me, when is the appropriate time is to suggest getting together outside of our location based friendship (which I was naturally very good at, but found myself completely incapable of stepping up the intimacy or intensity of our friendship), or even what we would do if I did manage to get them to spend time with me. I simply never figured it out, and slowly my male friends left my life. I stopped hanging out with Ryan. I didn’t hang out with my male roommates when I lived with them despite often wanting to. I just didn’t think I was interesting enough for people to want to be around.
This is the way things were before I noticed a giant hole in my life, which I now recognize as a lack of intimacy and social connection, or sense of belonging. The secret course was my (successful) attempt to put an end to the largest source of anxiety, anguish, and emptiness in my life. I spent a dedicated six months putting myself in social situations that made me feel physically uncomfortable, everyday, and slowly at first then all of a sudden I saw my life completely change. I went from having no friends, to having multiple strong tribes of friends. I went from having nobody to share anything below surface level feelings with, to the point where I was losing days to deep, engaging conversations on a regular basis, with: people I’d just met, people I’ve loved for years, and people I’d long desired to connect with, but felt unable to. I went from not knowing what to do around others, to being able to read and give off subtle social cues, and without feeling any sense of “control” over my social interactions, I knew how to get to a place where I felt comfortable. I learned: how to recognize when I wasn’t going to mesh well with someone, how to pull the interesting stories out of anyone who is open enough, how to share my downfalls instead of my triumphs to feel heard and seen as a person instead of a machine who pumps out accomplishments, how to directly talk about the things that make me anxious, and how to enjoy riding the wave of uncertainty and discomfort (enjoying the eustressful intensity) and seek non-deterministic situations where I’m stretched beyond my comfort-zone because that’s how I know I’m trying something new and I will most likely learn something about myself. I learned how to uncover the things that make other people so interesting and hear stories that people had never shared with anyone before, and sometimes had never fully thought through themselves. I learned how to relax, and see all social situations as play, where experimentation and off-beat provocative actions and statements make everything more fun.
Then, I moved to Dallas, where there was already an incredible group in place that I found myself lucky enough to be included in. Every person in the group is such a unique character, and I love diving deeper with all of them because I realize how complex they all are as people and how much I can learn from every one of them. Instead of expressing all my feelings about being a part of a tightly integrated friend group, I’m going to talk about how, in this context, Everybody Wants Some felt like it hit me at the perfect time.
The main character, Jake, is plain looking and quiet, and we see the entire movie through his real-time experiences. Through this we occasionally gain small degrees of self-awareness, not through hearing the thoughts, flashbacks, or fly-on-the-wall scenes featuring others, but purely via observation, because that is how we experience life. This makes easy to relate to the main character causing you to feel as though his newfound friends (the baseball team) are analogous to the people in your life. At first I saw them as one-dimensional foil characters, and the one dimensionality of the characters was bizarre, just the way it can be when you’re meeting a set of characters in your own life. There is an obvious trait that you seem to quickly pick up in everyone, and you seek observations that match that pattern (to prove yourself right) because humans are hard-wired to oversimplify and to recognize patterns, even when they are nonexistent. Later, as you see the people in different contexts, different locations (which the movie is great at pulling you through), different situations, and different emotional states, you realize that these people are as multifaceted and difficult to understand as it is to understand ourselves in our own heads.
The movie couldn’t have chosen a better climax than the scene where Jake spends the entire night, talking with the auburn-haired girl, completely lost in conversation, submitting to their desires and fully experiencing the present together. I remember every night I stayed up talking passionately and deeply with someone, and these often end up being the ‘peaks’ and formative moments of my life. Not the triumphs, but the moments when the world disappears and you only see the person in front of you. When you are only in the present moment and nowhere else. When you’re not worried about what this is, what this will be, what this has been, or where this is going, but simply enjoying that it is. My social goals can be simplified into: trying to enjoy and cultivate (but not put pressure on, control, or expect) perfect moments in my personal relationships, like what was portrayed at the end of the movie, or what I’ve described above. I’ve had an comparatively high density of those moments in magical pre-college week every semester, and while these moments can only ever sneak up on you, I’ve been lucky enough to have a few recently since I moved to Dallas. The old me would wish that I could have more, but the newer, more appreciative, present minded me only hopes to remember to not kill these moments when they start, but to instead submit to the moment, and follow my feelings.
If this movie served a purpose for me, it reminded me to allow myself to fully experience the world around me, and that the best scenes in my own life cannot be created or controlled, only enjoyed. Everybody Wants Some is a fun journey that is embedded with the virtues of patience, understanding, vulnerability, and non-judgement. Whether or not you choose to watch it, recognize that practicing these traits can make you feel much more like a character in the social scenes that play out in front of us everyday, and much less of an audience member.
The words in this article are mine, but the images were borrowed from the film. Go watch it.