While the focus of this film is Matthew McConaughey’s performance – and the staggering body transformation he underwent – the supporting cast really help Gold shine (although it’s a shame about all the bloody spoilers).
The story, we are told at the start of the film, is “inspired by true events”, specifically, the career of Canadian businessman David Walsh and his company, Bre-X, which skyrocketed on the sharemarket in the mid-90s, on the back of claims they had found an enormous reserve of gold in Indonesia.
Gold, for both artistic and legal purposes, retells the story as that of Kenny Wells, from Reno, Nevada, and gives the story a late-80s timeline to coincide with the economic upheaval of the time.
Let’s get this out of the way – McConaughey as Wells is top shelf. He put on 20 kilos for the role, and it’s right there on show for large portions of the film; he may not be rockin’ the Magic Mike six-pack, but his shirt’s off for roughly the same amount of time.
But the weight gain is crucial for his performance. McConaughey the chiselled Adonis just wouldn’t work as Wells; it’s simply too difficult to believe a man that good looking could be so desperate. And ‘desperate’ is Wells in a nutshell – constantly swilling from a can of PBR or glass of Seagram’s, surrounded by a haze of smoke, and scrambling to keep the company his grandfather founded afloat, working from a stool at the last chance saloon.
But while the desperation the Oscar winner brings to the role is on point, his bombastic sales pitches and general joie de vivre are what really bring home the performance.
However, it would be doing the film an enormous disservice not to also mention Edgar Ramirez as geologist Michael Acosta. The love story between Kenny and his long-term girlfriend Kay (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) is sweet enough, but the central relationship in this film is between Wells and Acosta – it’s your classic lovable rogue/straight man shtick, but without Ramirez, McConaughey would have fallen flat (and Acosta even gets the movie’s best line).
In fact the whole supporting cast are rock solid, with Corey Stoll and Stacy Keach in particularly good form.
The only real beef I have is not with the film itself, but the way it’s been marketed and reviewed.
While we’ve got a different character, a different location and a different time, the filmmakers have been absolutely up front about the fact Gold is based on Bre-X, and so people have been candid about how it ends.
And that sucks.
Knowing the end of a story isn’t necessarily a problem – we’re told from the outset that Romeo and Juliet don’t live happily ever after, but more than 400 years later, we can safely say Shakespeare’s tale has stood the test of time. The issue is when a story isn’t set up to give the finale away.
Gold could be a classic rags-to-riches tale – sure, McConaughey’s voice-over tells us something’s not quite right, but with Wall St execs looking to get their piece of the pie, there were a number of ways things looked to play out.
But both reviewers and even McConaughey himself, during press junkets, have been open about what was really going down in the (absolutely stunningly shot) jungles of Indonesia.
And again, that’s not a big deal if your movie is up front about the ending from the start, but it’s not until the 90-minute mark of this two-hour feature that the audience discovers what anyone who’s read a review already knows.
Well, I’m not going to do that in this review.
This is a film you can enjoy for the performances and cinematography alone, but the story itself was well worth the Hollywood treatment, and if you go to see it without knowing anything else, it could genuinely surprise you.