True Drew's Delight and an Edgy Go

Barrymore's light Never Been Kissed surpasses Liman

Talent is not lacking in Go, which was written by John August (God). Liman was impressive in the fluid manner in which he moves from one point of view to another and shifts from the comic to the tragic to the absurd without losing control of the film's tone. The problem is Liman's motives. I get the feeling that what he wanted most was to step up a rung and join the other big-time filmmakers: the Scorceses and Stones and Tarantinos. If that was his intention, he failed miserably.

In Go, Liman creates a vision of unrelieved depravity and amorality where none of the characters has a single redeeming human quality. It is nothing for Todd to ask Ronna to show him her breasts as a condition for selling her ecstasy, or for Ronna to dupe her customers by substituting cold medication for ecstasy. It follows that when Adam and Zack commit a more serious crime, their only concern is not getting caught. In the world of Go, there is only violence and self-interest. As a result, the vision of humanity is as false as the one in which good always triumphs over evil, violence is always punished, darkness is balanced by light, and honesty is its own reward.

Go strains for significance in every frame. But Liman hasn't developed fully enough either as a filmmaker or a thinker to support its demands on us. One of the most appealing things about Swingers was the absence of pretense. It never asked to be taken for more than what it was: a kind of extended exercise for actors. Swingers has style and a fresh sense of comedy but not a particularly strong voice or point of view. What Go adds to the mix is a set of easily adopted assertions about the soullessness and amorality of the country's young people. In his desire to be a heavyweight, Liman has lost the very qualities that made that earlier work so refreshing and original.

By contrast, director Gosnell and the people who helped him create Never Been Kissed had only the desire to entertain, which makes their movie such a joy and a delight. And that goes for Barrymore, too. All she wants to do is make us giggle.

Never Been Kissed.
Rated PG-13.
Directed by Raja Gosnell. With Drew Barrymore, David Arquette, Michael Vartan and Garry Marshall.

Rated R.
Directed by Doug Liman. With Katie Holmes, Sarah Polley, Desmond Askew, Scott Wolf, Jay Mohr and Timothy Olyphant.

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