In theaters this Thursday, Gold tells a familiar tale with a flat performance from Matthew McConaughey and a rehashed narrative.
Gold starts off with a flashback to when Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) was learning the mining business from his father (Craig T. Nelson). They were on top of the world, in the money until his sudden death, leaving Kenny to run the company. Fast Forward a few years and everything is a disaster. His once-mighty mining firm works out of a local bar where Kenny’s girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) is slinging drinks for the patrons. Facing the prospects of the family business going under forever, Wells risks it all to meet up with geologist Micheal Acosta (Edgar Ramirez).
Acosta’s theory is that if they mine a specific uncharted portion of the Indonesian Desert, they will strike gold. This film then is the story of how they went into uncharted territory, struck it rich, and how Wells/Acosta become an overnight sensation.
Gold is like American Hustle sans chemistry and well-written dialogue. The film wants to be an edgy ensemble piece, but the story is extremely rote. There’s no heart to this tale as each actor is merely meant to check a narrative box while director Stephen Gaghan tells the tale of achieving the American Dream and ultimately falling short for the one millionth time.
McConaughey certainly attempts to make Wells memorable. He puts on a fake bald spot, wears fake teeth, and he put on some weight for the role, but no amount of prosthetics could cover up his flat performance. The Academy Award winner isn’t even the most interesting person in the film.
Acosta is far more compelling because there isn’t much known about him. For most of the film, you wonder why he’s helping Wells. How do these two polar opposites even get along? Who is going to be the person to restrain him when he finally wants to smother Wells in his sleep?
Writing and Direction:
The best way to evaluate director Stephen Gaghan, writer Patrick Massett, and writer John Zinman’s film is to look at it in four acts. The first act is the flashback sequence at the start of the film and it contains an insane amount of distracting voiceover narration. Why would you have McConaughey talk over roughly 40% of the opening, discussing things we can clearly see on screen?
The second act of the film is very long and extremely tedious. I understand that we have to get to the Indonesian Jungle to find his fortune but they easily could have cut out so many frivolous portions. Do I really need to see Wells catch Malaria? Do I want to watch Acosta travel from camp to camp to try and persuade workers who walked off the job to reconsider? I can only assume the writers want us to know just how difficult this all is for them.
The third act of the film is Wells’ rise to the top, which they convey rather quickly with montages. We do have certain strategically placed scenes that are meant to further along just how quickly he became filthy rich; of course in this act, we have all sort of new characters who are hanging by Kenny’s side while Kay melts down because she sees through them. Again, all of this is very typical.
In the fourth act of the film, we see Wells’ downfall. The downfall as in any of these types of narratives is epic and all his new “friends” are nowhere to be found. His partner has even skipped the country. The only person who is still on her side is Kay because she loves him no matter.
The writing in the film is simplistic and serves to just move things along and nothing more. Had an effort been made to allow this characters to gel together by writing better dialogue and scenes where these characters bonds were at least evident, we would have had a better overall product. It appears to me that more time was spent on making this film have the illusion of grandeur while short-changing the story at hand.
Gold gives off the appearance of a film with substance and some potentially great performances. In reality, none of that is accurate. This film uses a recycled narrative to tell a story that has been told in an extremely bland manner.