Coming and Going
People of my generation — Xers — can, I think, readily identify with the young people of, say, American Graffiti — the agonizing over what to do with your life, of making that kind of decision when you’re not quite ready to give up being a kid yet, is fairly universal, if only, perhaps, from a comfortable middle-class perspective. I wonder, though, whether that recognition would be reciprocated by the American Graffiti generation when it comes to films about GenXers. Would they see anything of themselves in a movie like Go?
Forget that 60s dilemma of choosing between college and marriage: Go‘s characters are more concerned with protecting their lives, keeping roofs over their heads, and staying out of jail. You don’t have to live quite on the fringes that these people do — at least, I don’t — to feel the same sense of despair and urgency hovering overhead. The concept of being able to choose to settle down with your sweetheart, a manageable mortgage, and the beginnings of a pension at age 18 is an unimaginable luxury for Xers. Never mind planning for the future — am I gonna be able to make the rent this month?
So, Go‘s three interconnected tales follow a diverse group of Los Angeles twentysomethings as their lives bang up against one another in a scenario that’s the 90s in a nutshell, from the Xer point of view: sex and danger that’s both exciting and terrifying (the clever script uses the word “go” both in the imperative, let’s-get-out-of-here sense and also in the imperative, orgasmic sense, as a synonym for “come”). And is if to demonstrate typical Xer cynicism, it all happens while holly jolly Christmas passes by practically unnoticed in the background.
Ronna (Sarah Polley: Last Night, The Sweet Hereafter), barely scraping by as a supermarket checker and about to be evicted from her apartment, agrees to take a weekend shift for Simon (Desmond Askew) for the extra dough. Simon improves his cash flow with a sideline of drug dealing, and his absence from the supermarket allows Ronna to step momentarily into this lucrative biz when Adam (Scott Wolf) and Zack (Jay Mohr: Paulie), TV actors on a cop show, come looking to buy. Ronna runs afoul of Simon’s dealer, Todd (Timothy Olyphant: Scream 2), and adventures in dealing come to a nasty close in what seems to be too impossibly quick a manner.
Ah, but then writer John August and director Doug Liman get delightfully clever. We rewind — like we’re watching a video — back to the beginning, and now we follow Simon’s adventures as he heads to Vegas for a weekend of rowdy hedonism with pals Tiny (Breckin Meyer: 54) and Marcus (Taye Diggs). Marcus’s tales of the joys of tantric sex intrigue Simon, and, determined to get ritually laid, he crashes a wedding with the intent of bagging a bridesmaid or two. Meanwhile, Marcus’s outing to a strip club goes disastrously bad — guns and strippers really don’t mix.
And then — hello — we rewind again to get Adam and Zack’s story. They appear at first to be the most successful — professionally and personally — of everyone we’ve met. But their constant bitching about their failed romantic relationships and the fact that they’re doing some work, under duress, for narc cop Burke (William Fichtner: Armageddon, Contact) indicates they are just as messed up as the rest of Go‘s characters.
August and Liman don’t present any of their characters in an especially flattering light — an older guy reproaches Marcus for his “whole screwed-up generation,” and nobody here would disagree with that assessment. These self-disparaging Xers know precisely the kind of lost children they are, and precisely how to escape a world that not only does not speak to them but has already written them off: When Zack and Adam flee a decidedly freaky, cult-of-Amway encounter, Zack says with a shudder, “I need to bathe in sin.”
So while Ronna and Zack and Simon and the rest may not be the most upstanding of citizens, their premature world-weariness and morose realism do, I’m afraid, make them all too recognizable. At least to other Xers.