The Go-Getter is an indie road movie, perhaps one of the most full genres out there. It’s not so much that there are a great deal of independent road movie as it is that they almost all feel similar. You watch one, and you’ve basically seen them all. The themes are the same, the archetypal characters grow in the same ways — even many of the plot points and stops along the way don’t change a whole lot. If there’s one genre that’s almost completely stagnant, it’s this one.
That holds true with The Go-Getter, which places 19-year-old Mercer (Lou Taylor Pucci) on the road with a stolen vehicle, which belongs to a woman named Kate (Zooey Deschanel). We know this because the car was equipped with a cell phone, and after the theft, she calls it every now and then. She’s not even mad that Mercer stole the car; she just wants to learn about the journey and hopes that Mercer will have fun. His quest is to locate his estranged and difficult to locate half-brother, Arlen (Jsu Garcia), and tell him that their mother recently passed away.
Of course, along the way, he makes a lot of stops, most of which play out like this: Mercer stops somewhere, is told that his brother isn’t here and that his brother wasn’t a great person when he was here, learns something — he’s on a path to self-discovery, after all — and then moves on. Sometimes he meets interesting people — an old crush named Joley (Jena Malone), or some woman played by Judy Greer — but most of the time it’s all pretty dull. Of course, the character’s personal journey is supposed to pull us in, but with how frequently it’s been done before, it’s difficult to care.
It doesn’t help that the film tries so desperately hard to be indie and quirky, with its awkward conversations and seemingly random secondary characters, that even if you typically like indie films, you’re going to have a tough time liking it. It’s very “try hard,” so to speak, and that kept drawing me out of whatever momentum The Go-Getter starts to get. If you watch it, you recognize quite early on how “indie” it wants to be.
The only genuinely interesting part comes from the atypical romance between Mercer and Kate. I think it only works because of the way that Kate is written. How many people get their car stolen and then talk casually to the thief for days and weeks afterward? It’s sweet and because it’s about the only part of the film that doesn’t feel clichéd, it winds up feeling the most genuine. Sure, it might not be realistic, but because it’s the only thing we haven’t seen a dozen times previously, it has the illusion of being more believable.
The ending comes before it should, cutting the film off right before where the third act typically would go. Being a low-budget indie film, one can’t help but think that the money ran out, causing an earlier finish than was initially planned. That’s not to say that most of the character arcs don’t finish, as they do, but that’s right where the film concludes. As soon as the final development occurs, we fade to black. We don’t get to see how that impacts them, or if the revelations they underwent will stick with them; we just roll the credits and finish before we should.
All of these problems would be forgiven if it could resonate emotionally, or make you laugh. Neither happened for me. The characters are all too simple and, generally, too nice, there are no real jokes or even a whole lot of funny situations. It doesn’t really do much in either direction, staying firmly in the space of almost complete apathy. It doesn’t attempt to sway us in any direction, giving us a very objective viewpoint for its events.
However, that doesn’t work with what’s supposed to be a personal journey. We want to be able to relate to these characters, not see them from a great distance. It doesn’t work for us to be kept so far away from them. We need to see them on a deeper level than just the surface, and that doesn’t happen here. That’s about all that could have saved The Go-Getter, and since that didn’t happen, it’s hard to recommend the film.
I suppose the saving grace comes from the actors, whose performances are generally good, bordering on really good, but because we can’t have a personal relationship with their characters, the performances are almost negated by the filmmaking. Pucci is the weakest, although he’s charming and innocent, while Malone and Deschanel, both playing against type, shine. But, like I said, it really doesn’t matter because of the way that writer-director Martin Hynes put his film together.
The Go-Getter is an indie road movie, which is a genre where all of the participants feel incredibly similar. It does nothing to separate itself from the pack, and in fact is so vapid and distant from its actors that even the best performances in the world wouldn’t be able to save it. You need to get in touch with these characters, and you can’t do it from the “objective” filmmaking method used to create the film. It’s not really that The Go-Getter is bad, but it is kind of dull, and because almost all indie road movies feel similar to what we have here, you’re better off not wasting your time with it.