In 1996, Doug Liman helmed Swingers, the breakout buddy film largely responsible for your friends saying things like, “You’re so money and you don’t even know it!” and that guy in your dormitory signing up for swing lessons. In other words, Swingers’ influence on popular culture may not have been profound, but it was briefly unavoidable.
For his follow-up, Liman took on a small-budget ensemble comedy called Go, which aspired to do for the teen-rave underground what Swingers did for zoot suits. It also happened to star a young Katie Holmes, fresh off of her first year of Dawson’s Creek, and a handsome actor named Timothy Olyphant, who would later anchor prestige-TV favorites Deadwood and Justified. While Go made far less of an impact upon its release than Swingers, I preferred the one that centered around a bunch of dirtbag kids who worked at a supermarket and sought a weekend of reckless excess. Being a dirtbag, 20-year-old raver who worked in a mall at the time, I could relate.
Having not seen Go since its theatrical rollout in April 1999, and eager to revisit with fresh eyes and 16 more years of life experience, I recently took in a belated encore viewing and emerged with the following concerns: Is Go a comedy? Is it a crime film? Is it a road-trip movie? A Los Angeles movie? A tour of the seedy Vegas underbelly? An insight into the late '90s rave scene? A buddy comedy? The answer is that it's all those things at once, without really fully committing to any of them. So in the event you’ve had a yen to circle back with this Liman-Holmes-Olyphant time capsule, or needed compelling reasons not to, here are 15 observations, gripes, and sticking points I came up with while diving into a re-watch of Go.
1. Like every Gen-X youth movie, Go loves nostalgia
Ronna (Sarah Polley), Claire (Holmes) and Mannie (Nathan Bexton) playing a guessing game involving dead celebrities feels like it could have been a deleted scene from Reality Bites. Ditto when Todd (Olyphant) pontificates on how much Family Circus sucks. These moments typify a trend in ’90s dialogue where references became acceptable placeholders for punchlines or character development, one that’s carried over to the next century.
2. Quentin Tarantino has much to answer for
The story told in three parts; the non-linear storytelling; the seedy, violent side of Vegas; the line where Todd tells Ronna, “Wow, I didn't know we were such good friends, Ronna! Because if we were, you would know I give head before I give favors and I didn't even give my best friends head, so the chances of your getting a favor is pretty fucking slim,” which sounds like it could have come from Samuel L. Jackson’s mouth in Pulp Fiction right before he asks Frank Whaley if Marsellus Wallace looks like a bitch. Really, Go might as well have been billed as Pulp Fiction for the WB generation.
3. Holy dated style, Liman!
The most glaring example would be drug-dealer Todd’s angled sideburns. Have you ever been afraid of anyone with angled sideburns? That’s before even addressing Claire’s pleather duster jacket. For the most part, it looks like a Delia’s catalog barfed all over this movie, which is pretty fitting, given that it was released just as our earnest infatuation with alt-rock gave way to our love affair with Britney Spears, a time when nu metal and American rave culture were at concurrent peaks. The wardrobe department of any late-’90s youth picture was invariably going to resemble a PacSun stockroom.