It’s become nearly common sense to say that anything you see in the movies you shouldn’t try at home but when it comes to writer/director Martin Hynes’ critically acclaimed Sundance Film Festival indie hit, The Go-Getter, it’d probably be best to extend that warning to your local car wash and parking lots.
Running out of ways for would-be lovers to meet, in a wonderfully inventive alternative to having the two lock eyes and become drawn together with near magnetic force (that’s called lust, my friends) or literally bumping into one another (which looks incredibly painful), Hynes comes up with a Kerouac and Huck Finn inspired humdinger with a felony thrown in for good measure. Why not steal her car?
Of course, this isn’t truly what makes Mercer run in the opening of Hynes’ film—having read Huck Finn and discovering that more than anything else it made him realize just how “stuck” he felt, he crafts plans for a premeditated vehicular heist. Namely-- borrow a friend’s t-shirt to get into the local car-wash without causing speculation, hop into the closest ride that doesn’t look like it’d fall apart, and pick up one’s belongings later on the side of the road.
Mercer (wonderfully played by the subtle and emotive Lou Taylor Pucci) gets away with it too until a cell phone rings and after a mini freak-out, he decides he’ll answer it, since by then he has nothing to lose. Instead of it being the local fuzz, he finds himself talking with the beguiling automobile owner, voiced by independent film’s coolest young actress, Zooey Deschanel. Oddly, yet believably (possibly because she’s voiced by Deschanel who can do anything from fake romantic chemistry with Will Ferrell in Elf or make you laugh and nearly cry all in the same scene in Mumford), she decides she won’t press charges. Eager to make it up to her, Mercer rattles off a laundry list of ideas from helping out with yard work or chores but the forgiving Deschanel says that she’ll let him use her wheels on his trip as long as he calls her regularly to fill him in on what’s happening.Although it initially felt as though the idea to “go west, young man,” was spontaneous, soon we realize—and it is an indie (read: grab your tissues) after all – that Mercer is a nineteen-year-old kid on a mission. Having lost his mother to slow, excruciating cancer eight months earlier, he decides to track down his estranged brother Arlen (Jsu Garcia) who is eighteen years his senior and whom he’d last seen at the age of five and inform him about what has happened. And along the path to Arlen, he begins realizing that he may not really know his brother as well as he thinks when he receives everything from a punch to a threat as he tries retracing the man’s steps.
Larceny, it seems runs in the family but Arlen’s crimes have been far more severe, ruining relationships and causing heartache wherever he’s set foot as Mercer meets a pot-smoking hippie played by Judy Greer, a former jailbird played by Maura Tierney and many others riding all the way from Oregon through Nevada, California, and ultimately ending up in Ensenada, Mexico.
Mercer takes advantage of the gift of close proximity when chasing the rumor that Arlen has wound up in Reno to look up an old middle-school classmate and crush named Joley, played by Jena Malone. Getting sidetracked by the flirtatious, sexually confident, and manipulative Joley who teases him into submission with ecstasy and her feminine wiles before endangering Mercer when she invites other men along, Mercer soon comes to realize that the girl he’s pining for isn’t the one for whom he’d carried a torch all those years ago but the one taking his calls back in Oregon.
When she shows up later on and is identified as a slightly older local girl he barely knew named Kate, Deschanel and Pucci elevate a film that had begun spiraling out of control with one odd adventure after the next (including meeting a creepy would-be adult filmmaker who exploits teenagers and one too many warnings about Arlen) into something genuinely touching and emotionally rich.
Additionally it offers a great contemporary soundtrack as well as music by M. Ward who has joined forces with Deschanel off camera to form the band She & Him. Including some impressive craftsmanship including an overwhelming homage to the French New Wave (especially evidenced in a scene taken right out of Godard’s Band of Outsiders), it’s the type of film sure to gain instant fans in those who latched onto Braff’s Garden State, provided they seek it out when it hits DVD shelves on 10/21.
Featuring filmmaker commentary, exclusive interviews, and other behind the scenes bonus footage, the film’s DVD release from Peace Arch Entertainment taps right into its target demographic by including not just a Digital Copy of the film for your PC, Mac, iPod, iPhone, or other portable device but also access to an exclusive free download of a musical track by Ward and Deschanel’s band She & Him.
Despite his admission that he isn’t religious and “given the fairly raw language and sexuality,” Hynes doesn’t quite get why it’s being labeled as such but noted that Christian seminary students who attended “one of the Sundance screenings… were intrigued by the threads of [what they assumed were] spiritual confusion that run through [the] road trip.”
Likewise I agreed with Hynes, feeling that-- no matter how outrageous and highly unbelievable the situations were throughout the film from asking us to buy into its laid-back negotiation to car theft early on-- it’s a relatable, nonreligious road movie that taps right into its 18- to 24-year-old target demographic of trying to discover just who they are, what’s important, and whom they’d like to invite with them along the way. Although, speaking as someone whose car has been broken into before, I can’t stress enough the importance of leaving thievery in the movies where it belongs as that’s not the world’s best conversation starter when you meet someone new in the real world.