Going all the Way (1997) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

We both liked a Ben Affleck movie. If you think that is shocking, you better brace yourself. We both thought Affleck did an excellent job in this film. Roger Ebert and James Berardinelli shared our enthusiasm, but the film came in too long, was pared from 155 minutes to 105 minutes for a theatrical release, and was still an utter bomb at the box office.

Scoop's notes:

Some pundit wrote that history is written by the winners, but the general problem with "coming of age" novels is that they are history written by the losers. The popular dumb jocks don't grow up to write agonized novels. They have trouble signing checks. The novels are always written by the geek-boys, and are written years after the fact. That strips away a lot of accuracy. In the interim period, the losers forget the things they want to forget, fail to confess the things that they consider embarrassing, exaggerate the torments inflicted on them by the cool guys, and lionize their own feeble efforts to be cool in their own ways. After all, the geeks want to remember that they weren't really losers, just more sensitive, more knowing, smarter, their values more lasting.

Dan Wakefield was really an exception. He remembered his youth with all the scars and warts, and he remembered how the jocks could sometimes be better people than the geeks.

And so it is that nerdy Sonny, the voice of the film, remembers the most painful moments of all. He recalls how his embarrassed parents hired a Christian counselor to talk to him about growing up, and how that counselor caught him spanking the monkey one day. He has not forgotten how his mom found his girlie books in the trash, nor how he couldn't get it up when he got the chance to have sex with the hottest babe he had ever seen, nor how he started a suicide attempt until he felt complete loathing for himself for being such a total loser as to contemplate suicide.

And he remembers how the quintessential cool-but-dumb jock, "Gunner", was intrinsically a good guy, not a mindless moron at all, but a guy who understood that life should be more than it is, wanted to expand himself, but didn't really know how. Most important, even though Gunner was and still is the coolest guy in town, he looked past the jocks and befriended the nerd because he could actually talk to the guy.

You have to applaud Wakefield for the complexity and honesty of those two characters, and their friendship is the tie that binds the movie into something worthwhile. The book was more of a satire of life in 1954, and the movie is more of an honest remembrance of the pain, and an expression of the need to escape from the life being satirized. Ben Affleck and Jeremy Davies do great work as the mismatched friends, especially Davies. Affleck had his character spot-on, but he had less of a challenge than Jeremy Davies because he played a generic kind of guy who would have been portrayed similarly by many other actors. Davies, on the other hand, brought a unique characterization to his part, and left his personal stamp on the film.

The weakest element of the movie is that the other characters in the movie are just cardboard props for cheap satire. I don't object to that in principle, but it creates an odd juxtaposition to the honesty and reality of the two main characters. The parents, the girlfriends, the religious leaders - they are all broadly satirical characters, and seem very far from reality except for Amy Locane's part. The broad-brush nature of these characters makes it more difficult to accept the honest portrayal of the two main characters.

I think the realism/surrealism duality was a calculated decision on the filmmakers' part. I know, or I guess I know, what the film was trying to achieve by doing this. It's the same technique that Savage Steve Holland went for in "Better off Dead", where Cusack is a perfectly normal guy living in a surreal world. The script was trying to show how exaggerated the characters of that time seemed from the point of view of the self-conscious. I guess my parents sometimes seemed to me as embarrassing as the parents in this film, and so I could remember some of the things they did when I watched the parents in the film, even though I know my parents were far more complex than the people they seemed to be in those moments. You know how it is when you're 15 and your mom reaches over and straightens your tie in public. It doesn't really cause all your friends to laugh at you. But that's what it feels like at the time. The movie just takes those moments of excessive self-awareness and inflates them, so that the minor characters are not really characters at all, but representations of our hero's feelings about them.

A strange history of this story. It takes place in 1954. The novel was written in 1970, so it was really about how the 70's viewed the 50's. I have my original copy of the book. Retail price - $1.25, printed June, 1971. Hard to believe I could be that old. Anyway, the screenplay was written in 1997, but probably doesn't have much 90's sensibility at all, at least not that I can see. It is therefore essentially a 1970 movie about the 1950's, which would have been a hot subject had it actually been made in 1970. At that time it would have gathered tons of visceral support and identification from the mainstream film audiences. It would have showed how the sexual and cultural revolution of the late sixties was already present as a seed, growing in the insipid tranquility of the Eisenhower world. That point would have been vivid in 1970, but seemed a bit like an intellectual exercise in 1997.  While it is a good little movie, you may want to take that into consideration before you rent it.  If you don't care how the 70's perceived the 50's, it may fail to play the right emotional chords for you. They should have made it into a movie in 1971, when all those feelings were up on the surface.

Despite that problem, however, I think the film still packs a lot of emotional punch, at least for those of us who did grow up in the fifties.


DVD info from Amazon

  • One very impressive thing about this DVD is that it may set the all-time record for deleted scenes. It's almost enough for another movie! There are 50 minutes of footage. (The final cut is only 105 minutes).
  • Both the deleted footage and the film itself have full-length commentary.
  • Widescreen letterbox, 1.85:1. Not an impressive transfer at all.



Rose McGowan and Amy Locane showed their breasts in various sex scenes.


Going All the Way  is a coming of age buddy movie. Unlike most, it does not take place in High School. Sonny (Jeremy Davies) is headed home to Indianapolis, Indiana after being discharged from the Army. It is 1954, and he spent the Korean War stateside in a public information office. He had been one of the invisible people in High School, and his biggest claim to fame was being the photographer for the school newspaper. As he boards the train, he spots his classmate Gunner (Ben Affleck) returning home from Korea with a chest covered with campaign medals. Gunner "caught some shrapnel in the butt" and is returning home a hero. Gunner had been the number one jock in school, and a social demigod who was way out of Sonny's circle, so Sonny tries to hide from him, but Gunner spots him and strikes up a conversation.

The two find, surprisingly, that they now have the basis for a friendship. Gunner has become somewhat retrospective and, as a result of his travel, is now interested in understanding the world around him. The two of them become inseparable. Gunner's mother is a swinging bachelor woman, while Sonny's parents are hyper religious, which creates some inspired comedic moments in the film, such as when Sonny's mother brings home a born-again ex-con to help him with his "troubles".

Gunner has any woman he wants. Sonny has a steady (Amy Locane) whom he has sex with, but he doesn't really want a life with her -- especially in Indiana. When he finally meets the girl of his dreams, Rose McGowan, he is very drunk, and can't get it up. The real conflict in the story is Gunner and Sonny's desire to expand their horizons and have great sex with fascinating women vs. the religious atmosphere and family values in the Midwest of 1954.

Both Affleck and Davies gave good performances. This was an early and strong Affleck effort. Some of the lighting and photography was very nice, and long, clear topless scenes from Locane and McGowan are a real plus. There was not enough pace or dramatic tension for me to call this a great film, and the women were there as objects/plot elements, and did not really have much to work with, but I related to both Gunner and Sonny, and cared about the outcome.  Every man will find some elements of the story that strike a familiar note. Part of what did resonate with me was the changed outlook which results when one returns home after being in the military and seeing the world. This is not a new theme. WW I had the hit song "How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm, After They've Seen Paree'?" 

The Critics Vote ...

  • General consensus: Three stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.5
  • With their dollars - a flop -less than a million domestic box. released on four screens. The studio just gave up on it.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "This is a C+. If you like coming of age movies, especially such films focused on the 1950s, you will love this one." Tuna says, "This is in the C to C- range. It was not without problems, but was a worthy effort from first time director Mark Pellington who got the author of the original novel, Dan Wakefield, to write the screenplay."

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