The original French title of Going Places is Les valseuses, French slang for “The Testicles” (“The Nuts” would be its English counterpart). That’s a pretty accurate description of Bertrand Blier’s characters, a pair of aimless, amoral twenty-something buddies bouncing (or escaping) from one situation to another, all instigated by their own mix of childlike bad behavior and poor impulse control. You could call Going Places a sex comedy where sex has become some joyless act instigated out of instinct; a road movie where the road is less a promise of freedom than an escape hatch from whatever trouble they’ve landed themselves in; or a crime spree comedy of petty offences by dim crooks driven more by the thrill of transgression than the reward of ill-gotten gains.
Jean-Claude (Gérard Depardieu, all thuggish charm and studly swagger) and Pierrot (Patrick Dewaere as his often reluctant partner in crime) are not cute or creative rebels with a cause. These smug, swaggering young men are crude, often cruel petty thieves without principle or a master plan. They run on pure impulse and Blier takes pains to show these guys at their worst in the opening scenes. They harass a middle-aged woman before snatching her purse, force a mother on an otherwise deserted train to breastfeed her infant in front of them (and then let Pierrot have his turn at the teat), and all but sell a girl kidnapped in a getaway as part of an auto trade-in with a chop-shop owner. It turns out that the girl, named Marie-Ange and played by Miou-Miou, doesn’t mind being used as a sex toy. It’s just that these self-proclaimed studs fail to rouse her sexually. She just lays there, inert and bored, as they compete to get a reaction from her. After being the fall-back bed for Jean-Claude and Pierrot between misadventures, she just falls in as the third leg of this bohemian ménage-a-trois, content to drift along with them from one scam to the next: Bonnie and Clyde and Clyde.