Going All The Way

on September 19, 1997 by Lael Loewenstein
   High production values distinguish this coming-of-age story adapted from Dan Wakefield's novel of displaced Korean War vets returning home. At nearly two hours, however, it feels unwieldy; a shorter cut would make it a more enjoyable ride. Jeremy Davies, so memorable in "Spanking the Monkey," demonstrates similar star quality in yet another tale of turbulent, misunderstood youth and sexual awakening.
   As Sonny Burns, an awkward young man coming home to Indiana, he finds himself suffocating under an overprotective, religious mother (Jill Clayburgh) and a dull, devoted girlfriend ("Carried Away's" Amy Locane). Instead, he prefers the company of a fun-loving, hard-drinking fellow GI named Gunner (an engaging Ben Affleck from "Chasing Amy"). Sonny, meanwhile, is grappling with raging hormones and sexual guilt. When he finally beds a lovely young woman ("Scream's" Rose McGowan), he can't perform; this botched encounter sends him into a suicide attempt and then on a journey with Gunner. Together, both frustrated youths embark on a search for deeper meaning and fulfillment in their lives.
   At its best, "Going All the Way" recalls some of the better male bonding films. Davies and Affleck, though actors of different styles, share a genuine rapport, and their scenes together seem honest and compassionate. Yet Wakefield's script doesn't go far enough into Sonny's angst or alienation. The film's overall look, enhanced by Therese DePrez's snappy design and Arianne Phillips' evocative costumes, effectively establishes 1954 Indianapolis as a place at once familiar and menacing. Too often, however, director Mark Pellington and cinematographer Bobby Bukowski employ simplistic color symbolism--flashes of red and blue--that distracts rather than engages the viewer. With colors, as with running time, sometimes less is more. Starring Jeremy Davies, Ben Affleck and Amy Locane. Directed by Mark Pellington. Written by Dan Wakefield. Produced by Tom Gorai and Sigurjon Sighvatsson. A Gramercy release. Drama. Rated R for strong sexuality. Running time: 115 min
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