Movie Review By Andrea Chase
Ah, the 50s. All-american Christianity vied with godless communism for our souls and beneath the wholesome veneer of conformity lurked sex. Luscious, forbidden, dangerous sex. That's the world conjured up in "Going All the Way," by Dan Wakefield, that rarest and luckiest of novelists, the one that's allowed to write the screenplay of his book.
The story follows Sonny, who has all the worldly self-assurance of someone who reads the Playboy advisor, but never has and never will grasp the gestalt of it, and his new best pal, Gunnar, who could be writing the column. These two don't have much in common, but Gunnar's brush with zen Buddhism has made him, if not actually deeper intellectually, at least wanting to be. Sonny may be a nerd, but he's an introspective nerd and for Gunnar, that qualifies as deep.
The guys, just discharged from the army, mark time wondering what to do with the rest of their lives, while living at home and coping with their mothers. Sonny's is a perky, pie-pusher. A woman so tightly wound around her Betty Crocker church-going brand of denial that Sonny's first reaction on arriving home is to retch violently. As for Gunnar's, she's a hip-swiveling, cocktail-swishing vamp of the sort that would send Sonny's mother into a first-class conniption fit. Yet, for all their differences, both are textbook cases of the Eisenhower years' narrow mind-set. And they're just the start of women trouble for our heroes. It's the obsession with sex, and the women that fate throws their way, that ultimately spur Sonny and Gunnar on to make lives for themselves. Or at least get places of their own.
Wakefield's screenplay captures Sonny's inventive inner life, but it's Jeremy Davies' performance as Sonny that's the key. What could have been a terminally annoying, one-note character is, instead, a conflicted wuss who's endlessly fascinating to watch. He renders nerd as anti-hero, the geek counterpart of Marlon Brando's "Wild One."
This is a beautifully made film that dissects the foibles, absurdity, and heartbreak of sex. It you missed the 50s, "Going All the Way" shows what they must have been like, and has a great time doing it.
© 1997 • Andrea Chase • Air Date: 10/8/97
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