Country Gold review – bizzare musical meeting hits all the wrong notes
Mickey Reece's misguided story of a singer-songwriter's liaison with country legend George Jones is a frankly baffling affair
Though country music is often described as just “three chords and the truth,” it's always been a bit more complicated than that. From its intersection with African-American and Blues cultures to Dolly Parton’s vocal cords standing the test of a 70-year career, here's a genre that has a lot to say for itself. Yet, somehow, Country Gold manages to sift past every single nugget of cultural worth. Following up-and-coming singer Troyal Brux (Mickey Reece, writer/director of indie horror flick Agnes) as he meets his long-time Country Music Hall of Fame idol George Jones (Ben Hall), the narrative hangs somewhere between a gratuitous dive-bar bender and a gander into the white male psyche — clearly what cinema is lacking these days.
Seemingly blending truth and fiction but always to worthless effect, Country Gold finds almost no interesting notes to play. As a character, Troyal is as irritating in nature as he is in name, clinging to the outdated ideals of idolising predatory titans and a woman’s place being in the home. His journey to meeting said legend is a woefully ropey one, told with next to no emotive output and dialogue that leaves everything to be desired. The only thread successfully weaved into the film’s (thankfully short) 84-minute runtime is Troyal’s sense of entitlement, which is about as apparent as the broadened hat of any wannabe crooner in Nashville’s downtown district. His overly heightened personality taunts us from an opening commercial shoot through to his hazy retreat from squandered dreams, showing little character progression or likeability.
Playing opposite him, Hall's caricature of real life star George Jones is fairly on the nose, and equally as abysmal in behaviour as the stories claim him to be. Though the acting isn’t award-winning from any of the cast, the problem with Jones’ character isn’t necessarily the persona itself, but the idea that Reece tries to attach to it. In an unexpected move – which works about as well as blending The Matrix with Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet – Troyal’s visit to Nashville is revealed to be linked to Jones’ dabbling in cryogenics.
There’s no obvious grounding for any this, catapulting Country Gold into a no man's land between serious drama and hammed-up parody. Combined with splatterings of badly used visual effects and an unbeknownst need to slow down the voices of Troyal’s kids, the entire film descends into chaos with no rhyme or reason. As the final cherry on an ever-melting cake, the movie also fails to create a single female character of merit, swaying from over-sexualised background props to housewives whose vocabularies consist only of the word “Baby.”
If Country Gold was supposed to be an ode to George Jones, Mickey Reece has ended up with something closer to George Foreman — grizzling, sizzling, and frying his audience’s brain cells within an inch of their last wits.
Country Gold was screened as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2023. A UK release date is yet to be announced.Where to watch