Go (1999)

directed by Doug Liman

Claire and Ronna
Claire (Katie Holmes) and Ronna (Sarah Polley)

Commentary


Director/cinematographer Doug Liman returns to similar territory explored in his previous feature Swingers with this darker episodic tale of youth culture in and around Los Angeles. The narrative is constructed through the now familiar technique of relating the interwoven plot strands, and sometimes even repeating the same set of events, from different perspectives. Supermarket clerk Ronna (Sarah Polley) hopes to earn some extra cash by making a one-time drug transaction, but things donít go exactly as planned. Meanwhile, her co-worker Simon (Desmond Askew) has taken the day off to join his Ďmatesí on a frenzied trip to Las Vegas that yields significant doses of sex, violence, and inevitably a car chase. Things settle down a bit in the final act as soap opera actors Adam and Zack (Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr) participate in a sting operation engineered by an eccentric cop named Burke, wonderfully played by William Fichtner.

There is a certain callous, self-serving attitude shared by most of the principal characters that plays ironically against the Christmas season during which the story occurs. Nevertheless, the indifferent tone never slips into outright brutality as evidenced by the numerous times characters are almost shot or nearly killed yet manage to escape relatively unharmed. In this way the film works as an adolescent fantasy in which all manners of exotic and dangerous activities are experienced without serious consequences or any learning from mistakesó"So, what are we doing for New Year's?" Nowhere is this carefree spirit more apparent than in the hedonistic Simon whose British accent and wide-eyed exuberance mark him as somewhat of an outsider; he mentions how much he has learned from American television. Consequently, Simonís naivete results in a fascination with the excesses of American society, particularly evident in the casinos and strip bars of Las Vegas, and the extravagant nature of this section of the narrative can be attributed to his viewpoint.

Stylistically, the kinetic, often discontinuous editing effectively echoes the filmís overall tone and is frequently accomplished in its own right. Music plays an important role in the cutting, particularly for the frenetic rave sequence that opens the film and for the later car chase set against the glittering Vegas backdrop. Pop-culture references and explicit banter lace John Augustís script that occasionally scores with out-of-nowhere scenes like Burkeís excited sales pitch for multi-level marketing. The young cast performs admirably throughout, and even unsympathetic characters like Timothy Olyphantís drug dealer become compelling through assured acting. Although Go seems uninterested in what exists at the core of its subjects, its celebration of the heedlessness of youth can be funny and exciting, tellingly hollow, or both; as in the film, it all depends on oneís point of view.

3 of 10


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© 1999

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