Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Who doesn’t love a good road trip movie? Going Places, the new action/comedy from writer/director Max Chernov, throws three teens together on a high school victory lap that goes terribly awry. For best friends Otis (Ethan Cutkosky, Shameless, 2009’s The Unborn), Jaden (Spence Moore II, All American, Creed III), and Cora (Chloe East, HBO Max’s Generation, The Fabelmans), celebratory desert fun to commemorate their plans for college is about to journey far beyond their wildest expectations. The trio of acting talent at the core of Going Places makes all the difference in the story being told—the tangible cast chemistry and strong characterizations result in the darker material being that much more satisfying.  

As the three ride together in Jaden’s car, Otis rereads an email welcoming him to the Class of 2025. He has just been taken off the waitlist, yet doesn’t disclose this to either Jaden or Cora. With school merely two weeks away, Yale-set Jaden and Cornell-accepted Cora are positioned for promising futures, whilst Otis appears more stagnant. Even being accepted at school, how can he afford to attend? As they get lost somewhere in the desert, Otis and Cora blaze up, and Jaden blindly follows the GPS. One minute the two friends are getting high, and the next Jaden hits someone that was out in the middle of the road.  

Not only do they have a potential dead body to contend with, but a suitcase filled with one million dollars appears to be another pressing issue. Do they call the cops? Do they drop off the mystery woman they’ve hit at the hospital, and call it a day? Do they keep the money in the briefcase, or leave it be? Otis suggests they go straight to the Airbnb, to get their heads straight and figure out next steps. One of the film’s biggest laughs comes when their weirdo host, a woman named Sue (Mimi Kennedy) whose mantra is “mi casa es Sue casa,” trips over the body of the unconscious/potentially dead woman, and blames it on her “drop foot.” The night ahead still holds gunshots, an exploration of sexuality, fiery mayhem, and a fellow hitwoman out for revenge! I was particularly impressed with how the movie addresses asexuality, tenderly and without judgment. As the film progresses, secrets kept between Otis, Cora, and Jaden slowly come to light.  

Going Places raising interesting questions about what to do in complicated situations. Sometimes, there are just no easy answers. The addition of the briefcase full of cash adds a certain greed element to the proceedings. Maybe Jaden and Cora don’t need it, but Otis sure could use the extra money. Further layers to the story are constantly unraveling, especially when the struck woman, Maya (Alysia Reiner, Orange is the New Black, A Mouthful of Air), begins to have her story explored. While I would hesitate to call this a flawless feature, Going Places is a solid movie of preposterous misadventures that reinforces its own themes of discovery, identity, and friendship.  

Going Places screened at 2023’s Cinequest Film Festival.

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