And now, for something completely different! We’re exploring the Doug Liman late 90s classic Go, featuring a cool No Doubt song and a drug deal told three ways. Brooke, per tradition, lead us off. Were you surprised by my inclusion of this film, why do you think I included it on the List, and what did you think of it?
B: So, I don’t know if you know this, but before we started Go, virtually everyone we know who had seen it assumed it was a Brooke pick and not an Annemarie pick. I had scarcely heard of the picture, and didn’t even recall the few details I knew well enough to observe that Sarah Polley was in it until you pointed her out to me as we were watching. It occurs to me that that last fact probably doesn’t mean anything to anyone but us, but everyone else, just know that Sarah has been cropping up quite often in our world of late. ANYWAY. Back to Go. I didn’t know enough about it to be surprised that it was included, but now that I’ve watched it, I’m kind of surprised you picked it. This story is basically a series of very bad life choices and sketchy people doing sketchy things to each other. So, naturally, I’m into it. I extra love that I came at this from a 2017 perspective as I got to enjoy very young Timothy Olyphant and bask in the knowledge that of him as the star we all know him to be now.
I had a lot of questions about the wisdom of doing one whole story, followed by one whole story, followed by one whole story, but when everything came to fruition, it really worked well for me. I believe I had a literal gasp situation when I realized the endgame just moments before it happened. I know I already name-dropped Mr. Olyphant, but I think he was my favorite part of this picture. His take on the cool, but still devious drug dealer was really very delightful.
Before I go on, AM, I need to know all about why you dig this movie. What makes it a “must” in your film canon and a detailed analysis of what young AM would have done in one of these scenarios. I would have done that, but we both know young Brooke would not have gotten into any of them.
A: Go is firmly in the college nostalgia column. My roommate and best friend insisted I watch it, and I too was taken with young Mr. Olyphant and the soundtrack. One of my favorite No Doubt tracks caps off the action as we head into the credits. Also, full disclosure, this was also a pick because I’ve seen very little that Brooke hasn’t seen, so anything she’s missed I pounce on like a cat. I do genuinely enjoy this film, and I think it’s held up since release. It’s a slice-of-time movie, showing what happens when you’re 18 in LA without any adult supervision.
Sarah Polley’s reluctant-but-opportunistic turn as a drug dealer is also a favorite part. She’s not really a dealer, which is why she doesn’t get hip to the obvious sting operation until it’s almost too late. I’m also a particular fan of the “three versions” way of telling the story from different perspectives. I think it makes the story less confusing to do an entire segment devoted to each perspective, but Brooke, I’m curious why you found it questionable. Did you miss characters because they dropped out too long? Was it too repetitive? I’ve always found that one of the most fascinating pieces of the film, that we get to see how the night unfolds from start to finish each time.
We can safely assume that I would never dabble in literally anything Simon is up to: crashing a wedding, having a pot-fueled threesome that starts a literal fire, grabbing the ass of a stripper WHEN THAT’S THE ONLY THING YOU CAN’T DO, racing your buddy’s car through Las Vegas, inviting the strip club bouncer to SHOOT YOU IN THE ARM, etc. (All-caps emphasis where I feel Simon was the worst decision-maker ever.) I think Claire (Katie Holmes) is the most grounded (and the most like me), but that’s because she’s essentially playing Joey from Dawson’s Creek, still the girl next door and still the moral compass for all her debauched friends. Brooke, if you simply had to pick one of the storylines to try to act out, which would it be? Aside from Young Tim (and feel free to elaborate on that as well), who’s your favorite?
B: My main concern with the three-part narrative was that it’s a trope that’s rarely well executed. Many, many, many films have tried to pull it off, and far fewer manage to add anything to the narrative with such splits. Go proved to be an exception to the rule, as the reveals were well timed, and so the culmination was still a lot of fun.
And it’s not just non-linear structure that is a common misstep, so too are “colliding lives” narratives. Look at Crash — yes, it won best picture, but let’s be real, it’s mediocre at best. That statue should have gone to Brokeback Mountain. Crash has a sprawling ensemble and lots of time jumps intended to create layers and make elements of the on screen action more profound, but that really doesn’t work. People got caught up in the hype or the moment, but it’s neither as woke nor earth-shattering as it would have you believe. Every other film nominated that year was FAR superior. I could go into other examples that demonstrate my ire and resulting reluctance, but, let’s not. /rant … and so, there was born my mistrust of these tropes as gimmick-y. And with that context, you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to see Go keep it cool and subtle and actually useful to the story. Bravo.
I would definitely go with Claire’s storyline, were I forced to live with one of these scenarios. Yes, kicking it with Timothy is a big plus. But I also love the resolution that she just gets to bounce out of Simon’s comeuppance on the basis of finding the gumption to say she refuses to be involved. That was hilarious and a tiny bit empowering. Even though she gets put through an absolute ringer, I would say that Ronna’s story is a close(ish) second. She’s a wonderfully dynamic character and I like the “make it work” vibe she brings to quite a precarious situation. Speaking of — I have a question about her life situation. We know she works at the store and gets up to shenanigans and that she has to make rent. BUT, is she a minor struggling to make it on her own, or does she throw out “so underage” as a convenient plan to escape the sting? Details! I expect this is a film that treats you to greater context and understanding with repeated viewings, so I want to know your take on all of this.
As for my favorite character, other than Mr. Olyphant, I was pretty tickled by Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf — I think they are Zack and Adam, but I’m not totally sure who is who, or if that even matters. The idea of TV stars in semi-secret love semi-constantly dodging girls and slowly learning that they’ve been unfaithful with the same unlikely person brings a lot of levity to some of the darker events in the picture. And you know I dig that level of realism.
But to expand on my earlier request, tell me all of the nuances. What realizations have you had with repeated viewings of Go?
A: Here’s my take on our main characters. I always took Ronna to be an actual 17-year-old with a slightly tragic backstory. Her own family has either kicked her out or has been so awful that she’s forced to move out on her own and work for a living. Claire is pretty well set up as a struggling actress but one with a supportive family. She might even live with a parent. Simon clearly couch surfs, and I think Mannie lives with a sibling or someone else cool-but-supportive that he can disappear for a night and it’s not a big deal, but he has somewhere to go.
The other sort of hidden agenda in this film from Limon is the idea of Hollywood corrupting. Everyone’s lives are pretty crappy, with only slight improvements at the end, but clearly everyone is struggling to some degree. The fact that they’re set in L.A. and have two (presumably) crappy sitcom actors who’ve “made it” but also are not having the best time shows a bit of the dark side of the California Dream. This subtext is handled better here than in Body Shots, but you know how I also love that film.
I’ll throw you my favorite scene and quote, and ask the same back. Also, what are your thoughts on the early roles for two of our favorite actresses?
[Adam and Zack are in the rain trying to make space in their trunk to put a body in it]
Zack: Wait! Stop! Hold it!
Adam: What? What?
Zack: It’s a Miata!
(It’s even funnier to me because my parents own a Miata and I think of this line every time I see that car.) It’s so goofy, and you’re right, Adam and Zack are a ray of sunshine after the Ronna storyline that ends on a cliffhanger.
B: As you mention, Katie Holmes is really just channeling her trusty Dawson’s Creek vibe, but she gets away with a bit more sass, cause, you know, this isn’t the WB. Sarah Polley on the other hand strikes a rather perfect tone here. She’s dark and irreverent and angsty, but most importantly a bit edgy. It wouldn’t have been a great era for what she can really do, but Go feels like an appropriate project.
I’ve already sort of touched on this, but I think my favorite scene is Claire and Todd deciding after an awkward breakfast out to get it on on the stairs. This was incredible first because it’s kind of a “yeah, girl” moment, but second because it is so wildly impractical, and rather than doing the thing most movies do and ignoring that fact, Go has them interrupted by Simon and the blokes with guns who want to waste him. Genius. And of course this leads into the solid Claire departure I mentioned earlier, and the absurd discussion of where it’s fair to shoot Simon for his many faux pas.
My favorite exchange comes from much earlier in the film, but still involves our friend, Todd, the not quite threatening as he thinks drug dealer, and the enterprising, if foolish, Ronna.
Ronna: I need a favor.
Todd: Wow, I didn’t know we’d become such good friends, because if we had, you’d know that I give head before I give favors and I don’t even give my best friends head so your chances of getting a favor are pretty fucking slim. Tell me what you wanna buy.
Ronna: Twenty hits of Ecstasy.
Todd: You come to me out of the blue, asking to buy 20 hits. Just so happens that 20 being the magic number at which intent to sell becomes trafficking!
Ronna: Todd, I would never fuck you like that.
Todd: How would you fuck me?
It’s perfectly creepy and just dark enough to be rather delightfully comic. And that more or less nails the entire tone of Go. It’s dark-adjacent, but not pitch black. Which makes it a rare AM pick indeed.
Next time, we’re going to watch another darkly comic picture — with a lot more murder, a lot more absurdity, and some parker brothers roots.