The Go-Getter Review
By Chris Cabin
Unless you're a Star Wars nerd, you've probably never set eyes on Martin Hynes. Nine years ago, Hynes played a young George Lucas in George Lucas in Love, a smart comedy short that offered the supposition that the grand lord of geekdom got his inspiration for the classic trilogy from classmates at a Los Angeles college. Since its release, it has garnered a cult classic status while its director went on to direct limp teen comedies Sleepover and Sydney White. As for Hynes, he became a screenwriter for several unrealized properties and ended up writing the first draft of Stealing Harvard, the thankfully-forgotten Tom Green comedy.
Six years after his Harvard cred, Hynes seems to have returned to more fertile and vital ground with The Go-Getter, his second full-length film and a minor hit at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Hynes, who also wrote the film, never shows up on screen but the nerdy impresario he embodied years ago can be seen in the guise of Mercer White (Lou Taylor Pucci), a high-school dropout who takes to the road with a stolen car not long after his mother's death. Initially, Mercer's voyage has two goals: to find and inform his half-brother Arlen (Jsu Garcia) of their mother's death, and to get all sweaty-like with Joely (Jena Malone), a thong-sporting, middle-school crush of Mercer's.
Though certainly both worthy goals, Mercer gets sidetracked when he gets a phone call from Kate (Zooey Deschanel), the car's owner. Outfitted with Deschanel's inescapable beguilements, Kate becomes the omnipresent passenger on Mercer's trip as he exhaustively searches for the transient Arlen and gets picked-up and shredded by the hurricane that is Joely. Saved only by a cowboy-hat-donning, knife-carrying wanderer (the great Bill Duke), Mercer recovers his car from Joely and her flunkies and, in the parking lot of a Sacramento pet shop, finds himself eye-to-eye with Kate.
It's to Ms. Malone's credit that after a lifetime of playing characters of spiritual fortitude (Saved!, Into the Wild) she steps into a role of such plaintive flagrancy without a moment's hesitation. She's the false prophet to Deschanel's honey-voiced angel. Pucci is playing subtle variations on his role in Mike Mills' excellent Thumbsucker, but he has a comfort with the part that eases you into Mercer's plight. Visited by highway ghosts that range from Maura Tierney's pet-shop stoner to Nick Offerman's infuriated potter, Hynes is careful to never let the film lose focus of Mercer and Kate. Even when relegated to an audio-only part, Deschanel has a flattering whimsy that etches her hurt and sensuality in equal measures. When Mercer finally finds Arlen, working at a Mexican seafront hotel, there's a devastating switch when we realize we don't care about finding Arlen nearly as much as we care about Kate and Mercer's first face-to-face conversation.
An Oregon native, Hynes furnishes the film with tunes from California songwriter M. Ward (who sings with Deschanel as part of the group She & Him) and the singer's dusty voice complements the road-weary feel of the film. Ward also shows up in a small cameo as Mercer's friend J. Far from reinventing the wheel, Hynes energizes the road movie with bursts of jagged nostalgia and waking dreams: an old man asking a nurse for KY Jelly, watching Mercer's mother's last convulsion, staging the Madison from Godard's Band of Outsiders in a motel parking lot with his three leads, a cowboy shootout between Kate and Mercer. Unlike the Godard film, The Go-Getter won't go down as much more than a lyrical take on the road trip but, unlike the output of his George Lucas director (or Lucas himself as of late), it gives reason enough to keep an attentive eye on Hynes.
We give up!
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Monday 22nd January 2007
Distributed by: Peace Arch Entertainment
Production compaines: Two Roads Entertainment, Et Cetera Films, Fillmore
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 40%
Fresh: 10 Rotten: 15
Cast & Crew
Producer: Lori Christopher, Lucy Barzun Donnelly, Larry Furlong
Starring: Lou Taylor Pucci as Mercer, Zooey Deschanel as Kate, Jena Malone as Jeoly, Giuseppe Andrews as Stock Boy, Kathleen M. Darcy as J's Mom, Judy Greer as Better Than Toast, Nick Offerman as Nick the Potter, Brian McNamara as Book On Tape, Erv Immeman as Hospice Patient, Ann Ryerson as Hospice Visitor, Julio Oscar Mechoso as Sergio Leone, Michael Patterson-Crohn as Shut Up!, Marissa Ingrasci as Laurel, Sita Young as Hardy