Why Go! needs to become your new Christmas film tradition
[this was initially published as a Christmas piece at thefourohfive.com in December 2016]
The year is 2001, it’s Christmas Day and I’m at my aunt and uncle’s feeling slightly under the weather. My cousin — who introduced me to many good things in life (The Ramones, Nirvana, Sex Pistols, Ghost World etc) — asks me if I’d be into watching a movie. And from his enviable shelf, Go! appears.
The Doug Liman film, often called “junior Pulp Fiction” mostly due to its three-part non-linear plot, is one of few movies that is thoroughly engaging yet random enough to walk the fine line between mainstream and cult. After all, Roger Ebert himself gave it 3 stars (out of 4), calling it “an entertaining, clever black comedy that takes place entirely in Tarantino-land” although he strains that Liman’s characters are “closer to ground level” which contributes to “a grittier feel”. Essentially focusing on rave culture and a drug deal gone wrong, the fast-pacing and highly quotable film has become a personal Christmas tradition over the past few years at my friends’ “Tis-The-Season” get-together dinner.
There are many reasons why Liman’s end-of-the-century masterpiece should become part of your Christmas watchlist too, and the first — and most obvious one — is that it actually takes place over one single night: Christmas Eve. Ronna (brilliantly played by Sarah Polley) works in a run-down supermarket with her friends Claire (the only role I can stand seeing Katie Holmes in) and Mannie, and is in danger of being evicted from her apartment (and finding herself “ho-ho-homeless”, as Simon tactfully puts it) due to being behind on her rent. When she accepts Simon’s shift in order to get the rent money (and him getting to go to Las Vegas with his mates), she is approached by two guys, Adam (Scott Wolf) and Zack (Jay Mohr), who want to buy 20 hits of Ecstasy. Sensing an opportunity, she goes to Simon’s dealer Todd to try and make the deal — and that’s when things start to go terribly wrong.
I won’t bother you with further plot details since you can read them elsewhere; I’d rather explain why this is one of the best Christmas movies ever made, and why you should add it to your seasonal traditions.
Let’s begin with the music. Go! has a carefully curated, praise-the-90s soundtrack (one of the aspects which also makes for the Pulp Fiction comparisons) that ranges from No Doubt (‘New’ is more or less considered to be the theme from Go!) to Air, Fatboy Slim, and Massive Attack. But the one music-oriented sequence that will stay with you long after the ending credits is the Macarena scene:
Highly derivative at its core, the brief yet hilarious segment can also be seen as another parallel story, since whatever is happening here is from Mannie’s very stoned point of view. You will want to recreate it time and time again — just try not to do it at your local supermarket as they could throw you out for all the food you make rain like it’s New Year’s Eve.
Also keeping the movie fresh and entertaining are the numerous pop culture references, which you can turn into an eggnog drinking game. See if you can spot the Alanis Morrisette, Beverly Hills 90210, Deal or No Deal, and Breakfast Club ones. The movie is filled with pleasant surprises like Taye Diggs’ resting bitch face and Melissa McCarthy’s contagious nervous laughter in her big screen debut. And then there’s the cats, because no amazing movie is ever complete without a couple of fab felines. Apart from Todd Gaines’ furry ball, there’s the alley cat whose real-life name is almost too good to be true: Princess Leah Lucky Buttons.
Time for one final (yet very important) element that makes Go! quality turkey-sidedish material: Las Vegas. The city of sin is always a very welcoming set for all sorts of weird films, but add the Christmas background, a wedding, a strip club, a car chase, and “Tantra, baby!”, and you’ll be glued to the screen like Simon’s hands to the girl’s behind.
All in all, Go! is a fun-to-watch young-adult flick that restores your faith in alternative Christmas soirées and reminds you of the important things, both in life and the during festive season: cherish your friends, avoid the shrimp, and don’t double-dose.
Originally published at thefourohfive.com in December 2016