directed by Doug Liman
(Columbia Pictures, 1999)

In The Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell gave readers a look at events in northern Egypt on the eve of World War II from four very different perspectives.

Those who like the technique but prefer events a little less literary and a lot closer to home might consider Go, a quirky late-model film by Doug Liman (Swingers) that recounts, from three different points of view, what happens to a group of young people in southern California when they decide to play "Let's Make a Dope Deal."

At the center of the action, and the first to tell her story, is Ronna (Sarah Polley), a supermarket cashier whose big problem on Christmas Eve is not what to buy her boyfriend, but how to raise the $400 she needs to avoid eviction. Providence appears in two guises: an offer from her coworker, Simon (Desmond Askew), to take his shift so he can go to Vegas with his buddies, and the sudden appearance of Adam and Zack (Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr), two young men looking for Simon in hopes he can help them score some drugs.

It looks like a sure thing, but then nothing in Go is quite what it appears to be -- at least, not as any one person sees it. It isn't until viewers have seen it from at least three perspectives that they begin to have any real perspective on it at all.

It's a dangerous balancing act, but Liman pulls it off with very few hitches. No sooner has Ronna met what appears to be an untimely end by a random act of violence than Simon wakes up in the trunk of a car and we're off to Vegas for a holiday almost as disastrous as Ronna's dope deal.

It takes a third telling of the story to pull all the threads together, this time from the point of view of the alleged drug buyers.

Go is alternately nail-biting and laugh-out-loud funny. Polley is both sympathetic and intrepid as the young woman who just wants to pay her rent, almost gets busted, nearly gets killed and takes herself off life support to get back to the supermarket to find out what happened to everyone.

Askew is considerably less intrepid but twice as funny as Simon, the man who's unlucky at cards, lucky in love with two Vegas bridesmaids, but no one to be allowed to carry a pistol. And Katie Holmes is absolutely heart-stopping as Ronna's friend and coworker Claire, possibly the shrewdest observer of them all. If the story had been told from her point of view in the first place, there probably wouldn't have been any need to show it from anyone else's.

Adding to the mayhem are a vice squad detective who's either out to seduce Adam and Zack or sign them up as Amway dealers and a foul-mouthed drug supplier (Timothy Olyphant) who takes Claire as collateral while Ronna runs off to pedal the pills she bought on credit.

Liman burns up more material in Go than many directors do in a lifetime. Yet despite the lightning pace, his film never becomes superficial, a la Richard Gere's high-speed, low-mentality remake of Breathless. The technique is smooth, the acting superb, the characters fetching and the message clear: Don't try this at home.

Unless, of course, you're about to lose that home.

[ by Miles O'Dometer ]

Buy Go from Amazon.com.