Director: Martin Hynes
Screenwriter: Martin Hynes
Producers: Lucy Barzun Donnelly, Lori Christopher, Larry Furlong
Cast: Lou Taylor Pucci, Zooey Deschanel, Jena Malone, Judy Greer, Maura Tierney
USA, 2006, 93 min.
*Left with an aching instinctual itch to explore America after a traumatic loss, a curious teenager named Mercer suddenly steals a car in Oregon and develops a life-altering telephonic connection with the forgiving and mysterious girl he took it from. As he sets out with her phone calls as guidance, Mercer's motives find focus as he travels across the postmodern highways of the former Wild West to seek self-knowledge and a sense of belonging.
Played with truth and nuance by Lou Taylor Pucci, young Mercer follows the clues and confronts struggles, both good and bad, on his spiritual journey toward manhood and an end to his grief. Supporting him in a range of unlikely relationships and chance encounters is an eloquent set of performances that include Zooey Deschanel as the car's owner, Jena Malone as a precocious distraction in Reno, and Maura Tierney as his brother's old flame.
Byron Shah's dreamlike cinematography and M. Ward's original soundtrack add to this "mix tape" of emotional discoveries. Perhaps most impressive is the way writer/director Martin Hynes vividly and creatively steers the viewer on this cinematic ride, where there are some roads still worth driving down.
*Summary by Joseph Beyer, SUNDANCE Film Programmer
The Go-Getter is an odd little film that has very strange and charming rhythms, but doesn’t feel like a complete film. Basically a road trip film through the American West, it did show me a lot of Western locations that I love to see in films. In a lot of ways, I was reminded of Wristcutters from last year’s festival. The Go-Getter wasn’t as good or surreal as that film, but Wristcutters is a good film to remind one of. This film was written and directed by a Columbia graduate, Martin Hynes, who seemed to be a solid, stable, and hard-working guy. Based on this, his first feature, you get the feeling that his third film will be tremendous.
From the very beginning of the film, there were things that worked fantastically and things that did not. I thought the main protagonist, Mercer, played by Lou Taylor Pucci, was very good. The scene at his mother’s deathbed was wonderful. As she passed on, Mercer let out a little laugh, almost a hiccup. It seemed like such an honest and tender touch, it made the scene more real, watching Mercer lose control of his reactions for a second. But then, he goes to talk to a member of a band that rehearses in a big bio-dome. The setting felt too mockingly comical, as if to say, “Look at these goofy Oregonians in their 70-s dome.” A little too Napoleon Dynamite for what I thought this film was trying to accomplish. I know it sounds ridiculous to dock points over a piece of set decoration, but there you have it.
A lot of other moments I really liked. The French dance sequence in the parking lot was a refreshing change of pace. An interesting choice was to have Zooey Deschanel’s character, Kate, present with Mercer whenever they were having a phone conversation. Yet, her voice still sounded like it was coming out of a phone. A subtle and new choice. For the most part, I found the dialogue fantastic. Especially the phone conversations and the hilarious ‘be a man’ speech from Bill Duke as an off-kilter sage.
Some logistical snags also really bothered me. How did Mercer get into Mexico without a passport? How did Kate character get to Sacramento? I think we are just supposed to accept it, but I would have a line of explanation. One thing I really liked about the ending of the film was that Mercer’s brother stayed in character. This brother is described as an asshole and a thriftier throughout the film and it is nice to see that he didn’t suddenly turn into a concerned family member once Mercer showed up on his quest. He was just as much a jerk as we were led to believe. Also, I loved Maura Tierney’s bit role as a cool and bored band member. I just love seeing her on screen, she is so much fun.A sweet combination of a road trip and rom com, The Go-Getter is a well-written tale about a young man’s exploration of the new West. The sepia-toned film style, while dangerously cliché by this point, was still beautiful to look at. There is a lot to recommend about this film and I hope it finds the audience that Wristcutters was unable to find.