The new Matthew McConaughey movie “Gold” has an incredible story to tell. And that may be exactly the problem.
The film tells us right off the bat that it’s inspired by true events but as it turns out the operative word there is “inspired.”
A lot of what transpires in “Gold” didn’t exactly happen. In fact, apparently, most of it didn’t really happen. Reality provided for only the barest of outlines. And that turns out to be a major drag on the movie’s success.
Movies don’t have to be true, of course, even ones that purport to be true, if the story they tell is compelling in its own right. Unfortunately, the most compelling feature of “Gold” is its “truth,” that somehow this remarkable story actually happened. That things didn’t really go down as suggested doesn’t doom the movie, but it certainly limits its enjoyability.
Here’s the story.
Kenny Wells (McConaughey) is a washed-up owner of a small mining company in Reno, Nevada in 1988. He’s already lost his home, his company is on the verge of collapse, and as he’s drowning his sorrows in a “half-gallon of Seagram’s,” he suddenly has a vision.
“I had a dream,” he says. “It was like I was being called. It was a gold calling. Gold.”
In a drunken stupor, Wells literally dreams of finding gold somewhere in the jungles of Indonesia and he eventually convinces an international geologist named Michael Acosta to partner up with him on this riskiest of ventures. The two of them set out on their quixotic dream to find the motherlode of all Indonesian motherlodes. And against all odds, after overcoming hellacious weather, a workers walkout, and a near deadly bout of malaria, Wells hits, well, gold!
At this point, we’re about midway through the two-hour movie, and you may find yourself wondering what else is there still to tell? As it turns out, plenty. Without giving too much away, I can say complications very quickly ensnare Wells. High-pressure business dealings, intriguing romantic propositions, prying government inquiries, and unnerving military interventions all contribute to a sense of unease and uncertainty.
The film manages to keep us guessing as to how this tale is going to end, right up to the very end.
The problem is the movie is far more twisty than the truth, and once you realize the characters are mostly made up, the film’s dramatics seem far less compelling. When the film is stripped of its crutch of “hey, can you believe this really happened?” its story starts looking a little threadbare and cliched.
“Gold” is still a decent enough adventure story about a loser who finally hits it big and pays the consequences for it. But for “Gold” to be really good, its characters would need to be less broadly drawn, the dialogue more sharply written, and the film’s point of view better focused.
Or it could be closer to the truth.