It’s difficult to think of two bigger losers in Canadian film than the lead protagonists of The Go-Getters. And that’s saying a lot.
After all, from the hopelessly naïve Maritime mates in the 1970 classic Goin’ Down the Road to the imbecilic, beer-guzzling McKenzie Brothers of Strange Brew to Calgary’s own headbanger-buddy team Terry and Dean of Fubar – Canada has crafted some of cinema’s most distinguished dunces.
But in The Go-Getters, actor and co-writer Aaron Abrams and his co-star Tommie-Amber Pirie have really created a particularly useless pair of protagonists that are as offensive as they are idiotic.
Unemployed, broke and sleeping on a piss-stained mattress in the boiler room of his brother’s dive bar, Owen (Abrams) serendipitously meets Lacie (Pirie) – a pathetic prostitute whose only possession seems to be the blue hospital smock she’s wearing after her recent overdose.
Frantic to change their miserable situations, the bickering, boorish duo attempt to scheme their way into enough money for simple bus fare to the backwater town of Brockville, Ontario – where they can escape the oppression of big-city life and appropriate Lacie’s grandmother’s house. Charming, aren’t they?
A provocative, raw comedy-of-errors that has been earning awards (Best Comedy Feature at the Cinequest San Jose Film Festival) and gaining a lot of critical praise, The Go-Getters has marked another notch in the belt of acclaimed Canadian comedy director Jeremy LaLonde (TV’s Baroness Von Sketch, How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town). We caught up with the filmmaker ahead of the movie’s opening in Calgary this Friday, Dec. 7 to talk about his provocative protagonists, playing on camera and whether comedy can ever go too far.
Q: There really is nothing off limits in this movie – everything from homelessness to cerebral palsy is targeted. It reminded me that Ricky Gervais has openly talked about how you can joke about anything. Do you fall into that category?
A: Yeah, I think so. I mean, we’re at a very dangerous time when a lot of people try to say that you can’t offend anybody and well, that’s kind of what comedy does. If comedy isn’t offending somebody, then its not being honest and if it’s not honest then there’s nothing really funny about it. I can’t remember his name but a great British comic has this bit about being offended and he talks about so what if you’re offended – eat a cookie and go to bed. Nothing happens when you’re offended so move on. I’m offended by boy bands; they’re not going to stop existing. You can choose to ignore something if it’s not for you.
Q: I read somewhere that Aaron Abrams and (co-writer) Brendan Gall actually first started writing the movie as a pissing contest to see who could make the other laugh the hardest. Did that carry on once you went into production?
A: Absolutely. There are a couple things in there that we kind of came up with on the day (and) Tommie and Aaron kind of approach acting and performance from a different point of view, so sometimes that causes creative friction and, for us, we were just like, “Let’s take advantage of that.”
Q: Can you explain that? How different are they?
A: Part of it is just Aaron co-wrote the script so he’s had this thing in his head for a really long time so there’s a specific way he sees everything going and sees certain lines playing, and then there’s Tommie, who was a lot fresher to the role. Tommie’s kind of approach to acting, which I love, is that every time she’s doing (a take) she is doing it different and you never really know what to expect. And that’s the kind of thing that can be really disarming for another actor.
Q: As a director, that must be a bit of a challenge to do on a film when you’re working with a limited budget and scope. Was that part of the appeal for you?
A: Absolutely. Especially for comedy, it was something that (producer) Jordan Walker and I agreed strongly about – putting time in the schedule for discovery, for playing. Because that’s how comedy works and you’ve got to throw a lot of stuff out to see what plays and what doesn’t play. That’s just the nature of it – not every joke is going to land. You’ve got to have extras.
Q: You may be best known these days for you recent work directing the hit TV show Baroness Von Sketch. What did you learn working on those episodes that you brought to The Go-Getters?
A: Well, actually we shot Baroness after we shot Go-Getters. It’s just the nature of independent film; by the time you start getting into festivals and stuff, it just takes a lot longer.
Q: OK, let me flip that question – is there anything you learned from the film that you brought to Baroness Von Sketch?
A: For sure. I mean those four women are forces on their own, but I think what I brought to the table was I said that I think it’s important we get time to play. The schedule can be big and tight, but I like to throw stuff out and I like to have space and time for discovery (because) the bottom line when it comes to comedy in particular is that funny is funny and if it’s not funny, why are we here? What are we doing here? And Baroness was a great playground too because the season that I directed, we had about 160 sketches in those episodes, but we shot closer to 200. There’s a lot of great stuff that just doesn’t make it, but that’s a great position to be in where we’re only going to keep our A-material because we literally don’t have room for it.
The Go-Getters opens Friday, Dec. 7 at the Globe Cinema. For show times please go to https://globecinema.ca/.
Steve Gow has spent a good amount of his time conducting interviews for a variety of publications as well as on television. Most notably, he was a film reporter for The Movie Network/HBO Canada and his written stories that were regularly featured in Calgary’s former “go-to guide” FFWD weekly, as well as Metro, Toronto Star and more.