On paper, “Go Go Tales” seems like a winner. Edgy director. Strong cast. Exotic dancers. However, for a film about a strip club, it’s surprisingly boring. Despite the T & A – and plenty of it—paraded across the screen, it’s not enough to keep your interest.
Willem Defoe plays Ray Ruby, proprietor of the Paradise. The Paradise is Ray’s safe haven, his version of home. Because it’s slowly sinking into the red, Ray develops a money making scheme to pull his club and its tenants from the edge of disaster. The place is, as you’d expect, peopled with neurotic characters. Ray’s a showman who dresses like a master of ceremonies and works his lounge style act in between the dancers’ performances. Running about the place is his Irish accountant, his disgruntled chef, his shrill landlord, his unionizing strippers and various other idiosyncratic employees and patrons. The action all takes place in an evening as things start to go up in (occasionally literal) smoke.
One of the problems with all these quirky, quirky folk is that they are so busy being distinctive that they don’t seem like real people at all. (When Matthew Modine showed up with a ridiculously over the top hairdo and clutching a tiny little dog, I officially gave up on finding a remotely authentic person.) The women tend to have less to do, other than dance in the buff. Even this is a little weird, as it seems like in an effort to avoid appearing exploitive, all the eroticism has been sucked out of the tease. For a seedy business, there is a marked lack of seediness that actually takes place at the Paradise. The pace of the film is frenetic and confusing as people talk over one another and oppressively loud music pounds over every scene– it’s not always clear who everyone is, what’s going on, or why we’re supposed to care. Director Abel Ferrara makes this stylistic choice, but it just doesn’t work here; it’s not as daring or challenging as it should be.
It should be stated that Willem Defoe does, however, give good monologue.