Go is a dramedy about young people making a series of bad choices, mostly involving drugs, but also sex, guns, money, and more. Mostly they are the sort of dumb decisions that are a product of youth and inexperience (albeit exaggerated for the sake of having more action and humor in the movie), the kinds of things that are sort of a part of growing up, that hopefully one will grow out of before they do irreversible damage (which, alas, is not always possible, especially if one is of a race, socioeconomic class, etc. whose members are less often granted second and third chances).
Go is told as a series of overlapping stories, each with a different character or characters at its center. Between some of these stories there is a high amount of overlap, where basically it is the same story from different perspectives. Between others the overlap is considerably less. As a product of the overlap, many characters are in multiple of the stories, sometimes as important characters, sometimes as bit players.
The stories take place over about a day. To summarize them very briefly: A character goes off to Vegas with some buddies. Because he is out of town and unavailable, someone who would usually use him as a middleman to buy drugs uses a coworker of his instead. Cops get involved. At different points of time at different places, there is intentional violence or accidental mayhem. Characters get deeper and deeper into trouble, and must take greater and greater risks to get out of it.
That’s a running theme of the stories, that poor decisions that lead to a certain amount of trouble are compounded by follow-up decisions intended to solve the problems the initial poor decisions created. That is, the situation the person has put himself or herself in leaves only choices that either will not get them out of trouble, or will give them a chance of getting out while also risking making the situation much worse. They consistently choose the riskier path, with sometimes that being clearly a terrible, panicky decision, and other times it being unclear whether that or some less risky alternative that accepts the current level of trouble is the lesser of the evils.
Go is an engaging movie. It’s fast-paced. It has some witty dialogue, some decent laughs. It’s well-staged and well-acted enough that you can get a feel for what it would be like to be in the characters’ shoes (which is mostly an “uh oh” feeling).
But it’s the kind of movie that I know many people would get into much more than the modest to moderate degree I did. For me, it was mildly enjoyable, but for certain people, mostly of a certain age, from a certain generation, this is one of those cult movies that you fall in love with, see multiple times, endlessly quote to your friends, etc.
In part that has to do with lifestyle. I was never—even at that age—really a part of the “party” scene, never got into drugs, none of that. I did have a little experience with things like that more as an observer, kind of on the periphery of that life. So I have some sense of what it’s like (living in the fast lane, doing a lot of drinking and drugs, living sort of on the edge where you let enjoying your youth sometimes outweigh being responsible and making good long term choices, etc.), and even some sense of what’s potentially appealing about it.
Certainly my attitude at the time was that since I had already seen through it and seen that living that lifestyle involves making stupidly reckless choices and routinely results in treating others in ways that range from ethically borderline to blatantly wrong, why in the world would I want to partake just because so many stupid people around me were doing so? And I’d say in retrospect that’s still 80%-90% my attitude.
But a much smaller part of me also understands why some might say that to not have a period like that in your youth constitutes having missed out on something worthwhile. There’s a sense in which it can feel better to have made certain mistakes and taken certain unwise risks and to be able to look back on them now and realize how much one has grown and improved one’s decision making since then, than to never have had to go through that growth at all.
Think about how people sometimes refer to their partying past—that time they got drunk and drove 90 MPH down Main Street, that time they were so messed up on hallucinogenics that they ended up doing they don’t even remember what sexually with one or more strangers, that time they barely avoided arrest by slipping out of a party when they saw police arrive, whatever. “Oh, I was a total fuck-up back then!” they might say, but (sometimes) it’s said with a smile, like it’s a positive memory in some sense, like it’s almost something they’re proud of.
Even if it’s not something they would explicitly say was the right choice of how to behave, or something they would endorse for their son or daughter or someone they care for, there’s still an appeal to it. It may have been stupid, it may have been wrong, but it was a time of adventure, a free-spirited time, a time of heart-pounding uncertainty about whether one would come through it OK, and there’s a sense in which that can start looking good compared to the safe, predictable life of being a parent with a 9-to-5 job with no outlet for making “wild” choices.
So even if for me a film like this only awakens a smidgen of such a feeling, I’m not surprised at all that people of a more “druggie” lifestyle—current or in their past—would really connect with Go and find it a lot funnier and more exciting than I did. It taps into the exhilaration of youth that they feel, or remember feeling.
One other very minor note. One of the main characters—who maybe gets the most total screen time, so if you really had to identify someone as the central character I suppose you’d pick her—is a grocery clerk played by Sarah Polley. Starting in her very first scene, she is rude and unpleasant with customers, co-workers, and her employer. I have the sense that the movie wants us to view this favorably—as an indication that she is too cool for this kind of shit job, that as a hip young person she has an appropriately superior, disdainful attitude—and to laugh at her putdowns of others.
But I found myself just kind of squirming watching that behavior, more repulsed than attracted or amused. (And I say that as someone predisposed to respond favorably to Polley, since I find her quite attractive. Maybe not in the most conventional Hollywood sex symbol sense, but as someone who has a face that’s attractive in kind of an offbeat or “interesting” way.
I don’t think it’s cool or appealing to be unkind and bitchy. I’m also pleasantly surprised how infrequently I run into that in service professions, so in that sense it struck me as unrealistic, rather than just “Oh yes, typical young person with a job she hates.” I mean, when I think about it, in my encounters in ordinary life with waitresses, checkout clerks, what have you, well over 95% of the time they’re at least reasonably pleasant. So something about her persona just didn’t ring true to me.
But like I say, that’s just a reaction I had to one minor aspect of Go. On the whole, I Iiked Go more than not, but I know it didn’t reach me the way it reached many in its intended audience.