25 Days of Christmas: ‘Go’ takes its own path to Christmas

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Throughout the month of December, TV Editor Kate Kulzick and Film Editor Ricky D will review classic Christmas adaptions, posting a total of 13 each, one a day, until the 25th of December.

The catch: They will swap roles as Rick takes on reviews of television Christmas specials and Kate takes on Christmas movies. Today is day 18.

Go (1999)
Written by John August
Directed by Doug Liman

What’s it about?

Supermarket employees get wrapped up in a drug deal gone wrong at Christmas.

Review

Despite the continued popularity of Christmas movies year in and year out, or perhaps because of it, the majority of them feel very much the same. Even the good ones tend to hit on the same topics and themes- family, forgiveness, charity. Go bucks this trend, giving us a film about the holiday exploits of a set of friends. There’s no mention of family, very little of forgiveness, and even less of charity. Even the friends don’t seem particularly close- there’s a strong sense that these are friends of convenience who only hang out because they work at the same grocery store. By stripping it of these more standard tropes, Doug Liman is able to create an energetic, surprising, and refreshingly different holiday film.

The film is limited in scope, taking place over one night and featuring a small set of characters, but rather than pad it out with extraneous scenes, Limon structures it as a series of three shorts, following characters from their initial interaction at a grocery store to their later connections. This format provides several benefits, chief among them a strong sense of momentum and energy. It also allows Liman to experiment and play with tone- one segment is noir, another screwball, and a third dark romcom, but all three mesh well and come back together nicely at the end.

Just about everyone in this gives a strong performance, but three particularly charismatic turns stand out. First is Sarah Polley as Ronna, who centers the film and whose performance is strong enough to keep her segment firmly in the audience’s mind until the film picks back up with it, nearly an hour later. Desmond Askew also brings a ridiculous amount of energy to the film as the crazy partier and occasional drug dealer Simon. His segment wouldn’t work without Askew’s manic buzz propelling the comedy and selling the more ridiculous moments. While Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf, who are featured in the third segment with a hilarious William Fichtner, do a great job, they, and most of the rest of the characters, are overshadowed by Timothy Olyphant’s brief but significant role as the drug dealer Burke. He’s a perfect blend of scuzzy, dangerous, and funny and Olyphant makes him both likable and incredibly threatening.

More than anything else, this movie succeeds in its ability to surprise. Several times throughout the film, John August approaches the Hollywood Standard Issue Plot Turn and turns away from it in favor of something different, from the characters chosen for the third segment and their relationship to the payoff, or lack thereof, to the scene that opens the film, to the resolution to both Ronna and Simon’s stories. Right when you think you know where it’s going, what kind of film it is, and just who the characters are, it surprises you and any film capable of that, particularly more than once, is worth a look. Go isn’t a perfect film, but it’s interesting and one worth checking out.

How Christmassy is it?

While not particularly Christmassy, the Mary Xmas party, with seasonal decorations galore, figures prominently in the film, as does a Santa hat wearing character or two. On the Christmas movie scale (1=Brazil, 5=A Christmas Story), this gets a 2.

You May Like It If…

You like Doug Limon, Timothy Olyphant, split narrative stories, or, “What a crazy night!” movies.

Other observations:

The soundtrack is great and immediately puts the audience in Go’s 90s rave setting.

Final thoughts:

Go is an interesting and fun film that makes the most of its semi-linear structure.

Kate Kulzick





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