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Country Gold: Film Review

Mickey Reece’s Country Gold is a tonally odd rumination of fame and legacy, and its decent performances and slick style don’t particularly inspire.

They say to never meet your heroes, because it might not be the endeavour you imagined. Mickey Reece’s Country Gold is an almost lackadaisical encapsulation of that exact sentiment, using a somewhat bizarre premise as a means to explore fame, legacy and regret.

Troyal (Mickey Reece) is an up-and-coming country singer on the cusp of superstardom. After proclaiming the legendary George Jones (Ben Hall) to be his musical hero in a televised interview, he’s gobsmacked to receive an invite to dinner from the man himself, and all but runs to Nashville to spend an evening with his ‘new best friend’. But the night doesn’t quite go to plan, when George reveals he plans to be cryogenically frozen the very next morning.

Reece’s film, which he co-wrote with John Selvidge, is at its core a film about understanding your own legacy. This semi-fictionalised George Jones has been worn thin by fame, looking haggard and sounding regretful, but willing to impart his off-beat wisdom to Troyal. Hall gives the film’s most impressive performance, with a gravelly voice feels run down with smokes and liquor and really emphasises the idea that this is a man who has lived a life. His stories sometimes take fantastical turns, but they more often than not have an element that Troyal can learn from.

a man looks with compassion in the film Country Gold
Country Gold (Fandor / 2023 Glasgow Film Festival)

Because Troyal is something of a contradiction. Both arrogant and naïve, he buys in to his own hype but is also completely starstruck by Jones. Reece’s performance is a tiny bit one-note, but it works well enough in the context of the film because it feels like he is meant to be overshadowed by Jones. Troyal – hilariously named to sound like a bad Southern accent and almost certainly inspired by Garth Brooks – is almost like an audience stand-in for most of the film, learning from Jones’ madcap stories, poetic one-liners and ruminations on a life spent in the spotlight.

And it’s those ruminations that make up the majority of the Country Gold’s runtime, comprising mostly of conversations between Jones and Troyal interspersed with bizarre tangents. Some work, like the animated interlude about the crime of ordering a steak ‘well done’, and some don’t, like the Star Trek leadership debate, and it leaves the film with a strange offbeat feeling. And while that does seem in keeping with Reece’s filmmaking style, it’s almost a little too odd tonally to fully work here.

Country Gold is a film that works well enough as an odd character piece, semi-fictionalising a country legend and playing on the 1990’s up-and-coming superstar archetype, but doesn’t particularly excel in its slightly more surrealist aspects. It looks great, with a slick monochrome palette from cinematographer Samuel Calvin and visual effects by Joe Cappa, offers a few laughs and has decent performances across the board, but unfortunately it’s not particularly inspiring. Maybe it is true that you should never meet your heroes, lest you spend their last night on Earth before hopping in a freezer being berated for the way you like your steak.

Country Gold had its UK Premiere at the 2023 Glasgow Film Festival on 9-10 March, 2022. The film will be released in US theaters on March 16, and is coming soon to Fandor.

Country Gold: Film Review (Fandor)
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