This Queer film review is part of my “Queer Holiday Film Reviews for 2020” post.
“Go” was quite game-changing when it was released in 1999. Yet some mock it as a lesser attempt at the cinematic storytelling style of Pulp fiction, or even just a copycat. But there’s something fresh about how director Doug Liman twists around character cliches, always leaving the viewer surprised. But there’s another key reason “Go” was groundbreaking – it was one of the first major studios to include a gay storyline. The only trouble I can already see a few of you thinking – how is this Queer film a Christmas film? Well, let’s break it down and suss out all of those details!
Synopsis of “Go”
The story is told chronologically, but in three separate parts before fully mingling together by the end.
Ronna’s Story: Ronna (Sarah Polley) is a supermarket cashier who’s about to be evicted on Christmas needs extra cash. Even though she doesn’t want to, she agrees to add on her coworker Simon’s shift, so he can go to Vegas with friends. But two guys approach her checkout looking for Simon, their usual drug dealer. Seeing the opportunity, Ronna decides to go straight to Simon’s dealer, Todd (Timothy Olyphant), and get the boys the drugs – taking a profit for herself. But Todd doesn’t know or trust Ronna, he raises the price. Ronna is forced to leave her friend and coworker, Claire (Katie Holmes), behind as collateral while Ronna gets the rest of the cash.
Except when she arrives at the boy’s house and meets their friend, she realises something isn’t right. She flushes the drugs down the toilet before she can get busted – and then tricks the undercover cop into giving a minor alcohol to walk away. But now she’s got a bigger problem – she doesn’t have the cash, nor the drugs to pay back Todd. So she replaces them with OTC meds. It actually works! Ronna, Claire, and Mannie (Nathan Bexton) decide to go to the rave themselves and keep selling the allergy pills to earn the cash she needs. But Todd figures out the double cross and tracks Ronna down at the rave. But right as he’s about to take care of Ronna, a car runs her over and tosses her in the ditch!
Simon’s Story: After a quick recap of the initial scene, but this time from Simon’s (Desmond Askew) viewpoint, we follow him to Vegas – in the trunk! Turns out he passed out, so his friends thew him in the trunk. They’re all starstruck when they arrive, and Simon puts their hotel room on a credit card: his drug deal Todd’s credit card! But when two of their friends eat too much shrimp at the all you can eat buffet, they stay back while Simon and Marcus (Taye Diggs) hit the floor to gamble. Simon quickly runs out of cash, so he crashes a wedding and ends up taking two of the bridesmaids to their hotel room for sex. The smoke a joint first but the one girl stuffs tissues up her nose, which then catch fire. They laugh and put it out… except in the middle of the threesome, the curtains goup in flames!. Simon bolts, runningbuck naked and holding his clothes, back to his room.
Meanwhile, Marcus is mistaken for a bathroom attendant because he’s black. But when a different guy mistakes him for a valet while tossing him keys to a red sports car, he tells Simon to get in before they speed off onto the strip! They hit up a strip club, but en route, Simon finds a pistol in the glovebox. Except at the strip club during a private champagne dance (also charged to Todd’s credit card), Simon breaks the rules and touches the girls. When the bouncer (Jimmy Shubert) starts to beat them up though, Simon pulls out the gun – and ends up shooting the bouncer in the arm before they bolt. Except they have the credit card, and the bouncer’s dad (J.E. Freeman, who’s an old Vegas mob boss) traces it back to the hotel. Leading to a cat and mouse game, all four of the boys barely escape into the adjoining room and drive away – only to be followed in a good ol’ street chase that ends with a fiery bang. Don’t worry, the boy’s scrape by and drive back to L.A. But the card was in Todd’s name…
Adam & Zack’s Story: Adam (Scott Wolf) is getting fitted for a wire in his underwear. Burke (William Fichtner), the cop running this undercover operation confirms that the possession charges against Adam and Zach will be dropped – IF they can arrest their dealer. Back in the car on the way to the store, when Burke asks Zach (Jay Mohr) if he has a girlfriend, he deflects but Adam mentions how Zach cheated as well. By now they’re at the grocery store to buy off their dealer – but Simon isn’t working; Claire is! She thinks she can secure the twenty pills, so they make plans to meet at the boys’ house later with the cash. Back at their house, they set up the secret cameras waiting for Ronna to arrive. Except when Zack tells her where the bathroom is, he mouths “GO!” After that, being caught on camera giving alcohol to a minor, Burke allows her leave.
But the boys aren’t off the hook yet, he want’s another favour from them – have Christmas Eve dinner with him and his wife Irene (Jane Krakowski). But dinner is a bit awkward… Irene flirts with Adam, eventually kissing him. Meanwhile Burke showers and returns bare ass naked right in front of Zach, but after putting on some boxers, tackles Zach to the bed while asking “Are you open to new things?” Suddenly now at the dinner table eating, things continue getting awkward and Zach tries to leave. However, they actually want Adam and Zach to sell Confederate Products in a pyramid scheme. They finally leave, with papers signed. We know learn that they’re actually boyfriends, as start arguing about the fact they both cheated – except it turns out they cheated with the same guy! Deciding to go confront Jimmy (Shann Christen), they head to his house and surprises Jimmy’s mother (Melissa McCarthy) who knew all along about the cheating.
But Jimmy isn’t home, he’s a the “Mary X-Mas” party. So the boys head there to find him – and cut off a piece of Jimmy’s hair when they do! But when they go to drive away in their yellow sports car, the back up over Ronna. Panicking, they drive forward to dump her in the ditch and then drive away. At a gas station, they try to clean up the call and fight over whether they should call 911. In the bathroom though, Adam realises he’s still wearing the wire! They decide that if no body is discovered, there’s no crime, right? So they go back and try to put her in the trunk but she moans; she’s still alive. Leaving her on another car with the alarm blaring, the boys watch from afar as the ambulance arrives.
By now, all three stores have intermingled and pick up in the same timeline the next morning. Claire has walked back to town and to the cafe they normally all meet up at if they get separated. Except Todd is sitting, having breakfast! So she sits down and asks if she’s seen the others, but finally relents and they have breakfast – and flirting? By the time they get back to Todd’s apartment, they’re making out on the stairs. Until the bouncer and his dad interrupt their lovemaking! They tracked the credit card back to Todd, but Todd quickly rolls on Simon. But as Todd is giving directions to Simon’s apartment, Simon bursts in! Claire is afraid they’ll shoot him, but yells “Hello! Witness here!”. They finally decide they just want justice – to shoot Simon in his arm. But the bouncer can’t do it without motivation and his dad starts yelling. Claire bolts, but as she’s walking down the stairs hear’s a gunshot. “It’s alright, I’m OK.” Simon yells.
Meanwhile, Ronna wakes up at the hospital, a bit dazed. Later that day, Claire says “Hi” to Ronna at work and asks where Mannie is – oops! They skip out of work and go back to the party to find Mannie where Ronna left him, cold and shivering. Claire finally finds the keys to Ronna’s car and just as they’re about to drive away, Mannie leans forward from the back seat and asks: “What’re we doing for New Year’s?”
There’s quite a lot of great aspects to “Go”, perhaps why it won a handful of awards and such rave reviews since it’s premiere. I attribute it to three key aspects: the directing/editing, the talented casting, and the actual story telling itself. Let’s break it down a bit more.
First, what a cast! Mingling with a handful of veteran actors such as William Fichtner and Sarah Polley are a handful of younger actors/actresses better known at the time for their roles on various TV shows: Taye Diggs, Scott Wolf, Katie Holmes, Jay Mohr, and Timothy Olyphant. All of whom later went on to become veteran actors/actresses themselves. Now there was some thought into the casting, as an interview with director Doug Liman, by pulling from multiple fan followings they built an even larger fan following for “Go”. Just about everyone did an incredible job bring their respective characters to life. However, I have to call out one or two who truly stood out. Timothy Olyphant brought a rather endearing side to what should’ve been a “bad” drug dealer character; we actually want to root for him towards the end! And I simply loved William Fichtner’s almost camp portrayal of Burke.
Next up: the script. First of all, it’s quite ingenious for writer John August to tell the story in three parts. Many ensemble films suffer the same issue: everyone is forgettable, because the story is told in real time as it jumps back and forth from side story to side story. Not in “Go”. Instead, we are able to really dig in and get to know all of the characters within each sub-story, from their quirks, their drives, and even their nuances. Even better, as the stories overlap, it actually builds upon what we already know since all three intermingle in unique ways. That itself is rather remarkable storytelling. And WHAT a story! Just about everything that could go wrong, goes wrong for everyone – but sometimes in different and unexpected ways. We’re left on the edge of our seats because we cannot anticipate the next part. Actual storyline aside, there are also plenty of comedic gems within this film; right alongside plenty of profanity too. As such, it’s quite realistic – dark and almost gritty yet, akin to black comedy, the quick wit and jabs keep it on the lighter side.
But the key element that brings it all together is the direction and sharp, quick editing. The pacing of the film varies, depending on whose story is being told and the current actions. Ronna’s story is rather slow to get going, reflecting her dreary situation yet in contrast, Simon’s storyline is quick paced being the “Vegas adventure”. We never lose interested and our focus is kept strong because of concise editing and cuts. Cinematographically, it’s quite a piece of art and definitely an underrated film.
I actually don’t have many negative things to say about “Go” – I just am not a huge fan of the storytelling method. And while I only recently watched this 1999 film, and though many remark how it’s very reminiscent (almost mockingly so) of “Pulp Fiction”, I actually get a “Requiem For A Dream” vibe. But I won’t hold a grudge against what is otherwise a well made film, so I only knocked off half off the “My Opinion” rating. After all, one of the internal criteria I use to judge this category is whether I would watch the film a second time. Now that I’ve seen Go, and especially because it’s not exactly a Christmas film, I’m probably won’t be watching it again.
Hopefully by now you can realise the brilliance of “Go” and that with the inclusion of Adam & Zach’s storyline, it’s definitely a queer film. But for those of you still wondering why this review is part of my “Christmas Reviews” – it all takes place on Christmas Eve. Ok… it’s not the greatest connection to the holidays – but hey, Christmas IS Christmas! Regardless, “Go” is a great film to watch if you want something a bit darker, a bit more realistic, and a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat. “Go” grab yourself a copy and give it a “Go” (Ok… I’ll stop. I promise!)