If you like for your screwball comedies to come with a smorgasbord of scantily-clad females, boy have I got a film for you. Written and directed by Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant), Go Go Tales unfolds in a seedy gentleman's club located in lower Manhattan where the regulars are actually more fun to watch than the dancers.
The straightforward plotline revolves around the establishment's beleaguered proprietor, Ray Ruby (Willem Dafoe), a smooth-talking con artist struggling to stay a step ahead of his creditors with the help of his crooked accountant (Bob Hoskins). While Ray may be able to charm the pants off strippers waiting for their paychecks, he can't sweet-talk his battle axe of a landlady (Sarah Miles) or his younger brother (Matthew Modine) who's fed-up with funding the fledgling operation.
And it doesn't help matters that the chef (Pras Michel) at the Paradise Lounge is proudest of organic hot dogs that go unappreciated by a clientele craving a different variety of meat. The upshot is that the place is on the verge of bankruptcy, and the only reason it hasn't closed is because Ray runs it more as a labor of love, or should I say lust, than as a profit-oriented business.
For, owning this bar is all he's ever wanted in life, so he sees it as his home and his employees and customers as his family. Still, there's the burgeoning debt that he's in denial about, and as the insanity escalates the only hope for salvation rests in winning the lottery.
Despite Go Go Tales' telegraphing its deus ex machina resolution, Willem Dafoe's deft juxtaposition of chutzpah and vulnerability in his capacity as the picture's protagonist proves engaging enough to make it worth your while. Like a charming, if crooked, circus ringleader, he orchestrates the motley menagerie in his midst, whether that calls for him to occupy the limelight or to lurk in the shadows of his seedy haunt.
An alternately earthy and stylized cross of Robert Altman and Federico Fellini where the freaks trump the tramps as the main attraction.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 96 Minutes
Distributor: Anthology Film Archives
To see an R-rated trailer for Go Go Tales, click here