Dir: Doug Limon, 1999. Starring: Katie Holmes, Sarah Polley, Jay Mohr, Scott Wolf. Comedy.

A lot of films about drugs and drug users take an exploitive yet ultimately moralistic tone about their contentious subject matter. Actors are given scenery to chew as either addicts or dealers. Junkies waste away tragically, but elegantly, and the dealers are suave thugs making the most of their Faustian bargain of a career. So often we are meant to envy the way the characters give a middle finger to societal rules and yet, when they ultimately reach their downfall, we are encouraged to feel morally superior. Call it a cultural byproduct of our country's draconian drug laws where all drugs are equally bad. (Except for alcohol which never causes any problems whatsoever.)

The thing I love about Go is the refreshing lack of judgment on the characters. It’s a movie about a random assortment of relatively amoral young people in L.A. in one insane 24-hour period. They work dead end jobs, they go to raves, and they take ecstasy. They’re basically good kids, just young and broke and out for a good time. They get into trouble, but not the kind of finger-wagging clichéd trouble that a bad screenwriter would normally concoct for these characters. It's more of the absurdist kind of trouble that Quentin Tarantino used in various plotlines of Pulp Fiction.

Similar to Pulp Fiction, Go tells three different stories that overlap. Sarah Polley plays Ronna, a grocery store cashier who works with her friends Claire (Katie Holmes) and Mannie (Nathan Bexton). Ronna is in a bind and needs to make some quick cash or she won’t be able to make rent. Two closeted soap opera actors (Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf) have been busted for drugs and are working with a narcotics officer to entrap a dealer. Not exactly having a plan but desperate to come up with rent money, Ronna promises them she can get them 20 hits of ecstacy later that night. After barely getting away from their set-up Ronna comes up with a dumb scheme to rip off a local dealer and sell fake ecstasy at a rave. Claire is used as temporary collateral in a scene of hilarious awkwardness and Mannie double doses and has a horrible night. In one sense all of this is pretty worrying behavior, but on another level it’s kind of endearing. These aren’t hardened criminals (well, except for Todd the dealer who is kind of scary) - they’re just dorky kids trying to get by. It is to director Doug Limon’s credit that he brings out the humor of the situations in the film above all else.

In the second part of the film, which is also its weakest, several bros go to Vegas (one of whom works at the grocery store with Ronna, Claire, and Mannie) and some wacky stuff involving the mob (I think) goes down. Taye Diggs plays the cool one of the group but the rest of them are so bro-ish that the story drags, when following Ronna and her friends was so much more entertaining.

Luckily, the gay soap opera actors’ night gets more interesting, too, when they are forced to spend the evening at the home of the narcotics officer who busted them and a series of hilarious misunderstandings take place. At the same time, Todd the dealer catches on to Ronna and things almost go from bad to worse. The film’s final segment brings most of the characters together and I’m reminded of the story about how on the Seinfeld show the cast and crew wore jackets emblazoned with the phrase "No hugging no learning" as a constant reminder that their show was not about a tidy moralistic wrap up to the shenanigans of four extremely selfish people. Things go on just as they were. Life is full of ironies and absurdities and sometimes drug dealers aren’t that terrible. As in Claire's case, they might even be boyfriend material.

Posted by:
Jed Leland
Nov 10, 2010 2:47pm
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