Going All the Way
1997, R, 103 min. Directed by Mark Pellington. Starring Jeremy Davies, Ben Affleck, Amy Locane, Rose Mcgowan, Rachel Weisz, Jill Clayburgh, Lesley Ann Warren.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Oct. 24, 1997
A period piece set in 1954, Going All the Way captures the growing pains and the unlikely friendship that's formed between two young men who have returned to their hometown of Indianapolis following their military service in the Korean War. Dan Wakefield adapted the screenplay from his popular 1970 novel, which Kurt Vonnegut once declared to be “the Midwestern Catcher in the Rye.” Gunner (Affleck) is handsome, athletic, self-assured, and a magnet for the opposite sex, yet ever since his return home murky artistic longings interfere with his docile appreciation of his carefree good life. In the nerdy, anxiety-prone Sonny (Davies), Gunner sees a kindred soul, an artistic type (he's an aspiring photographer) who's also searching for answers to life's big questions. Short of finding the answers, sex (and lots of it) will do in the meantime. Curiously, in uptight Fifties Middle America, this appears to be no problem. Women in Going All the Way are all generally predatory and available, targeting marriage but settling for sex. Sonny has a regular thing going on with his neighbor Buddy (Locane), a girl who's always there and eager to accommodate (and wed) but remains terminally uninspiring to Sonny. Instead, Sonny's lustful fantasies are directed toward Gail (McGowan), the best friend of aspiring artist Marty (Weisz), whom Gunner picks up one day in a museum. Gunner's impediments along true love's path are the inappropriate libidinous/incestuous gestures by his mom (Warren) and her rabid anti-Semitism (Marty is Jewish). Sonny's mom, on the other hand, is a Bible-thumping nag (Clayburgh), who is systematically photographed in extremely unflattering, wide-angle shots that leave little question regarding the movie's opinion of her. It's typical of the pumped-up, expressionistic visual style of filmmaker Mark Pellington, an award-winning mainstay of MTV and the world of music video who here makes his feature film debut. The sensitive story about two questing young men is typically overridden by scenes of spinning drunken excess or the shrill pitch of marriage-mad women. A sense of inauthenticity permeates the entire project, even down to the carefully decorated period production design that never quite shakes free of that unmistakable pre-fab, movie-set look (although it must be noted that the jurors at Sundance had quite a different assessment and cited Going All the Way production designer Therese DePrez for special achievement). Davies (Spanking the Monkey) and Affleck (Chasing Amy, Dazed and Confused) are affecting and engaging as the callow young men on the verge of independent adulthood. One wishes that we had seen more of their personal drama instead of Going All the Way's myopic male gauntlet of shrews and Jews.