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Not Far Enough

Going All the Way
Paul Beauchermin

Buddy System: Jeremy Davies (left) strikes up an unlikely friendship in the 1950s with Ben Affleck in 'Going All the Way.'

Fifties film can't find its way

By Michael S. Gant

THE INCIDENTAL PLEASURES of Mark Pellington's screen adaptation of Dan Wakefield's novel Going All the Way are considerable. Set in the Midwest in the wake of the Korean War, the film features jewel-tone convertibles (why is it that everybody in period-piece movies owns an immaculately maintained car?--no one ever scrawls "Wash me" in the dust on the trunk of these babies); atomic-age lampshades and wet bars; and marvelous early rock & roll and jump-swing numbers on the soundtrack (no opportunity to hear "Rocket 88" should ever be passed up).

Unfortunately, the center of this coming-of-age tale can't compete with the decor and music. Jeremy Davies (Spanking the Monkey) plays Sonny, a geeky artistic type returning to the stifling bosom of his religious family after spending the war stateside. On the train home, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with the town's high-school stud, Gunner (Ben Affleck of Chasing Amy); it seems that a few days in Japan gave Gunner a hankering for deeper philosophical pleasures than his old jock acquaintances can provide. Together, the odd couple lusts after some local wild girls (Gunner successfully, Sonny disastrously not so), studies modern art and dreams about escaping repressive '50s suburbia for the lure of bohemian New York. Despite their dating adventures, it's obvious to everyone but the filmmakers that Gunner and Sonny are a classic example of another kind of Hollywood repression: closeted homosexuality (they're as chummy as Rick and Captain Renault at the end of Casablanca, to use film critic Parker Tyler's example--or as Danny and Big Stupid, the young drifter buddies in The Girl in Lover's Lane, to use Joel and the bots' analysis from MST3000).

In bits and pieces, Going All the Way has a light, satiric touch that is engaging. Affleck in particular does soulful callowness very well (he looks like John Dall in Hitchcock's Rope channeled through a young Powers Boothe), and Amy Locane (Carried Away) proves too appealing by half for the thankless role of the dowdy girlfriend whose sexual favors Sonny mysteriously finds wanting. Davies, however, is as much irritating as sympathetic--he bears his sad sack as if he were Atlas himself. He's such a relentless 97-pound weakling that the urge to kick some sand in his face is downright irresistible.

Going All the Way (R; 105 min.), directed by Mark Pellington, written by Dan Wakefield, based on his novel, photographed by Bobby Bukowski and starring Ben Affleck and Jeremy Davies.

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From the Oct. 9-15, 1997 issue of Metro.

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