Holiday Favorites 2013: Bears Fonte Is Ready to 'Go' This Christmas
Welcome to Holiday Favorites, a series in which Slackerwood contributors and our friends talk about the movies we watch during the holiday season, holiday-related or otherwise.
Today's pick comes from Austin Film Festival's Director of Programming, Bears Fonte. Always one to root for a story that's off the beaten path, Bears sent us a movie that might not be the first to come to mind when you think of the holidays. Here's what he had to share with us:
Before she was on the cover of every tabloid, Katie Holmes lent her then budding Dawson's Creek star power to one of the greatest indie comedies of the nineties, Go. Go was Doug Liman's next picture after Swingers, so I was all in, but he once again sort of got upstaged by the screenwriter, John August, who crafted an amazing, fast-paced ensemble comedy that jumps around in time in a Pulp Fiction sort-of-way (but actually far more effectively).
Katie gets to open the film with the leading speech "You know what I like best about Christmas? The surprises." It's Christmas morning, her friend is bleeding in a ditch and Katie is sitting with a drug dealer (only we can't see that yet) and she basically says, "you and me here today, yesterday, who'd have thunk it?" We then whiplash back to yesterday and watch three different Christmas Eves play out, with three completely different sets of characters, each full of their own depravity, debauchery and illegality.
Ronna (Sarah Polley) takes a grocery-store shift from Simon (Desmond Askew) so he can go party in Vegas with the boys (including Taye Diggs and Breckin Meyer), trading on the gold card he borrowed from a drug dealer (Timothy Olyphant) who happens to be the same dealer Ronna tries to buy X from to resell to two grocery store customers (Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr), all under the watchful eye of a cop (William Fichtner). The cast is amazing, the plot is so detailed, and the comedy so sharp -- it's literally a perfect movie. It's not going to cure cancer or change the world, but it is flawless, right down to the two minute bit-part where you can pretend to discover Melissa McCarthy in her first feature.
The thing I love about Go is that everyone is just trying to have a good time, in their own particular way. It's a celebration of irresponsibility. But yet, everyone gets "punished" and has to pay the piper. And then they get back to their lives.
So many Christmas films are all "home-for-the-holidays" or "the greatest gift of all is family." Most of Go completely avoids any concept of family at all. It’s set in L.A. so that makes sense -- I know so many people who are literally stranded at Thanksgiving and Christmas because they are too poor to fly back home. So with nothing to tie them down, they are left to their own devices to "celebrate."
I love this pagan element to the film. Christmas is when it is (December 25) because two thousand years ago the fledgling Christian church decided to drop down a major holiday on top of Winter Solstice and steal a bunch of the pagan traditions (Christmas trees, Yule logs, singing, gift-giving). Go's search for a good time gets back to the origins of why we feel the need to celebrate at the end of the year -- we made it through … let's do it again. One year older, one year wiser. And each one of these characters goes through life-changing moments that night (in a way it's sort of like a less schmaltzy Love Actually that plays out in one night).