There’s a memorable scene which kicks off the 2000 audience favorite The Way of the Gun. In it, a woman screams a stream of obscenities at two shifty men who’ve just set off her boyfriend’s car alarm by playing cards on the trunk. One of the men shouts back one of film’s most incredulously misogynistic retorts, followed by another round of verbal abuse hurled by the woman which devolves into a melee resulting in multiple injuries. This scene (found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQLXYu6plhg) contains the saltiest of language, lasting precisely two minutes and thirty-four seconds.
Now, imagine an eighty-minute film which lives in this short scene, where two antagonistic losers constantly bicker and scheme and hurl every possible kind of disgusting invective at each other. The result? The Go-Getters, a crowdfunded microbudget comedy co-written by one of its lead actors and directed by Jeremy LaLonde, whose previous feature How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town won Best Picture at the Canadian Filmmaker’s Festival in 2016.
This time, LaLonde goes light on the subtlety and slams the in-your-face gas pedal straight to the floor in this comedy surrounding two fuckups in search of a way out of Toronto. “Fuckups” is precisely the only word which could possibly describe Owen (Aaron Abrams) and Lacie (Tommie-Amber Pirie), an idiot alcoholic and a junkie hooker, respectively. Writers Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall have a grasp on gag and situational comedy (as opposed to punchlines and jokes), but sometimes get lost in how far they want to push and degrade their two lead characters. We’ll get onto that later; for now, let’s get into what makes non-heroes out of these two individuals.
Owen, having been kicked out of his brother Kevin’s (Kristian Bruun) apartment and bar, indignantly stands up for himself and his loutishness, almost in denial that he’s screwed up more times than Kevin can accept. He’s not a good dude – he doesn’t live up to the most minute of expectations, he replaces liquor he steals with soda or water – and he seems to enjoy living life as a bottom-feeder. Fewer lead characters are harder to root for; this scuzzbucket makes a case to be the worst of them.
Matching him blow-for-blow is the debauched Lacie, whom we first encounter in the throes of an overdose, foaming at the mouth and convulsing on the bar’s bathroom floor. She’s saved thanks to Canada’s healthcare system, but she’s just as quickly thrown out of the hospital after verbally and physically attacking the admitting nurse. Returning to the bar, where her low-rent pimp Cerebral Paulie (James Cade) does his business, she and Owen start the most toxic of associations, trying to find a way to scam enough money for two bus tickets to Brockville, a city three hours away.
I say “association,” ‘cause it for damn sure ain’t a friendship. They’re degenerates who think they’re better than they are when they constantly show us – and each other – the exact opposite. On top of all that, each of them thinks the other is the lifeline that’ll get them out of Toronto and into Brockville, where Lacie’s ailing grandmother has a house they can use. Owen agrees to use his carpentry skills (shyeah, right) to fix the house up in exchange for a place to stay, so they’re stuck with each other, clawing their way to every bill, Loonie, and Toonie they can find or steal.
Much like The Way of the Gun, Abrams and Gall’s screenplay doesn’t feature very likable characters; everyone’s in it for themselves and doesn’t hesitate to tell us so. The one person with whom we commiserate has been pushed beyond his limits, all of his kindness and goodwill drained by his brother constantly screwing him over. Owen and Lacie are petty, selfish, and downright nasty, pushing each other into precarious and dangerous situations which usually result in fresh bruises – or something else entirely – landing on their faces. The writers seem to have a sick pleasure in making everyone suffer, which makes up the majority of this film’s running time.
There’s not a minute where we as an audience can breathe easy and enjoy what’s going on. Jeremy LaLonde keeps us on our toes with the film’s brisk pace, slamming Owen and Lacie into the next gag barely after the previous one is finished. At 80 minutes, there’s not much to see except for how horribly two people – who seem to need each other desperately – treat each other and the world around them. Aaron Abrams plants his scummy flag and flies it high, making Owen truly despicable with only the thinnest shred of something which could be called “decency.” In locking horns with him, Tommie-Amber Pirie shrills it up as Lacie, becoming the ultimate nag who wants everything for herself and doesn’t accept any responsibility for herself or her actions. Her performance is a little grinding, but I say that as a compliment, for she is a perfect fit for this movie.
The Go-Getters makes you squirm and cry out in revulsion at some of the things found in Abrams and Gall’s script, with almost every scene being an exercise in discomfort. You’ll find yourself wondering how far down one has to go to hit rock bottom, but the film keeps digging new holes in its quest to find it and doesn’t ever stop. Its laughs are entirely misfortune-driven, but there’s a ton which makes you truly believe Owen and Lacie deserve every ounce of said misfortune which lands on them. They engage in lightly gross larks, like smoking discarded cigarette butts and skimming money from the bar’s till; other acts are unspeakable and bordering on the offensive, with one scene making you cringe with how far it goes for your reaction.
Your mileage may vary with The Go-Getters, depending on how much you can take of two people who blame life for making them punching bags. My respect for the film lies in the fact that it doesn’t cop out or let anyone off the hook, either in the film’s world or the viewer themselves. It firmly entrenches its characters – who are all varying shades of odious and loathsome – and keeps them that way, with absolutely none of the typical “I’ve learned a little about myself” moments to make you feel better. Sometimes, you can’t get clean, no matter how much you try to scrub; The Go-Getters is very aware of this, dwelling in its own misery and pulling itself together to help you laugh – however uncomfortably – at two idiots trying to combat failure with more failure.