Not Very Shiny

In the middle of the last decade, Stephen Gaghan seemed to be a filmmaker on the rise.  He won an Oscar for writing the script for Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic and then directed George Clooney to an Oscar in Syriana, a movie which earned him another screenwriting nomination.  But after that he disappeared from features for a full decade before returning this year with Gold, the latest in what has been an ongoing parade of Matthew McConaughey award-season bait over the past few years.  It is a very showy performance from the actor in what by all accounts should be a fascinating story, but unfortunately it is told in such a way that it is not at all interesting.

The movie is based on a true story, but all of the names and a few of the facts have been changed.  McConaughey plays Kenny Wells, a down-on-his-luck prospector who teams up with a rogue geologist in Indonesia for one last desperate expedition to discover gold.  When all hope seems lost and Kenny is on death’s door with Malaria, his partner, Michael Acosta, announces that they’ve struck gold.  Thanks to the find of a lifetime, Kenny’s business suddenly skyrockets and all the big investment firms are working to get a piece.  He’s the success he always knew he could be.  But something is not right and soon the FBI comes knocking down doors and asking questions.

Bryce Dallas Howard as Kay in GoldMcConaughey is very good in the role, but it is a little too obvious of an Oscar push.  The actor shaved his head and gained weight in order to play an overweight bald man, but it is questionable whether he really needed to go that far.  He could have played it the same with his normal movie star looks and the result would have been the same; with the exception that the movie would no longer be able to mine the actor’s weight gain and willingness to act both in an out of his underwear for comedy as it does often.

What really brings the movie down, though, is that McConaughey’s crazed performance is the only element of the movie that has any kind of pizzazz to it.  The movie is as unattractive as its main character, lacks any kind of interesting camerawork or editing, and is in incredibly uneven.  There are times when the movie seems like it is really going to take off only to then fall back into a lull.

The movie also awkwardly flashes forward to a couple of brief scenes involving the FBI, even though the reason for the FBI’s involvement will not be unveiled until the final act of the movie.  We are not directly told that the men asking questions are from the FBI, but it is abundantly clear.  Perhaps if the movie would have used the FBI questioning as a framing device for the entire movie, it could have worked, but to only plug a few brief scenes into the middle felt more like an interruption than anything else.

Gold seemed like it was primed to work as a cross between Wall Street and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but it is completely lacking the enjoyment factor.  Director Gaghan has proven in the past that he can put a fascinating story together and so hopefully this is simply a misstep in his return to feature films.

Gold is rated R for “language throughout and some sexuality/nudity.”  The language itself would probably earn this movie its rating.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Gold.