AFI Dallas Report: The Go-Getter Review

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, USA (@peteramartin)
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Finally I succumbed to the loose-knit, ramshackle spell cast by The Go-Getter.

The aroma of "quirky/Sundance/American/indie" flooded my nostrils at first, as overwhelming as the smell of cigarette smoke in an elevator. All the expected ingredients were present: late teens/early 20s male protagonist irresistible to women, casual law-breaking without regret, road trip, search for lost family members, hints of dysfunction, dead mother, and so forth. I was resistant.

Slowly but surely, writer/director Martin Hynes reaches out through the screen and throws voodoo dust in your eyes -- or some magic trick like that -- because all the stereotypical peculiarities and plot twists begin to make sense. A slightly warped worldview comes into sharp focus, and that was the quirk, er, point at which resistance was futile.

To recap a bare minimum of the plot: Mercer (Lou Taylor Pucci) steals a car and embarks on an impromptu road trip to find his long-lost half-brother so he can tell him their mother is dead. Before the credits finish rolling, the woman who owns the car is calling Mercer on a cell phone and breathily flirting with him. After a brief pause, the rambling road trip continues.

The woman keeps calling every few scenes, and the conversations become more personal. The cellular audio dance is a pleasant (and clever) twist to a typical cinematic romance, and it's nicely contrasted with Mercer's encounter with Joely (Jena Malone), a highly-sexed former classmate who's looking for more than one kind of ride. Eventually the stolen car's owner is manifested in the delightful person of Zooey Deschanel.

The usual oddball selection of supporting characters, played by the likes of Judy Greer, Bill Duke, Nick Offerman, and Maura Tierney, appears at just the right unexpected moments. The characters, led by Pucci's appealingly boyish emotional seeker, toss off so much out-of-left-field humor that it drives the story forward. You come to believe that Mercer needs to take this journey, not just to find his brother, but to find himself...

Oh, my, that does sound prototypically American indie, but if the whole thing smells too stale to consume, remember that the cumulative effect accomplished by Mr. Hynes is far more than the sum of its parts. He knows how things should look, and he knows how to elicit good performances from his cast. And it's the treatment of the story that makes this film one I can recommend, little visual tricks that in the hands of others might sound precious, but that Mr. Hynes renders new and fresh.

One outstanding feature that cannot be debated is the spectacular look of the film achieved by Mr. Hynes and director of photography Byron Shah. Gorgeous 35mm imagery will never go out of style.

It may not change your life, but The Go-Getter is definitely one to look out for.


Writer/director Hynes and producer Lucy Barzun were present for a post-screening Q & A.

They talked about the challenge of shooting the film in sequence and the huge obstacles posed by shooting on location in Mexico. Hynes also noted the invaluable benefit of being able to spend time on a test shoot with his DP at the various locations.

They have been in discussions with distributors since the film debuted at Sundance and feel that things should be locked down shortly, allowing for a theatrical release in the US beginning in late August/early September of this year.

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MayaMarch 28, 2007 1:10 PM

I really like how you "staged ambivalency" (Phillip Lopate) in this review. Watching films is so often like that for me. It's the rare film that captures me immediately and throughout; moreoften my reactions are like the ones you've described so well here.