If you go watching Gold expecting a 2.0 version of Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece The Wolf of Wall Street, you will be disappointed. With lower expectations, however, it is a pleasant surprise. Gold is a very entertaining journey carried out by a tornado-like main character in one of the most predictable and exploited plot devices: the American dream.
“This was one of the two scripts in my career that after one read I had that wonderful feeling that nobody else could do it, I had to do it,” said star Matthew McConaughey as he came onstage after the preview screening of Gold. McConaughey also actively participated in the selection of the right director.
“Me and producers talked to many directors over a period of three years and never really came to the same conclusion about who we wanted and then Stephen Gaghan came along,” he said. “Stephen Gaghan [Oscar winning director for Best Writing on the 2001 film Traffic] hadn’t done much in the last 10 years, but he came on, he understood the material, the places.”
McConaughey spoke with passion about the character he plays in the movie. Kenny Wells is a fortune seeker that inherits his father’s passion and mining company. There are a lot of similarities between Kenny and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort – from the atmosphere of the movie to many of the decisions and plot twists that occur during the narration – with the only difference represented by McConaughey’s character being much more human than DiCaprio’s.
Gold, in fact, isn’t a movie about the sick Wall Street world imbued with drugs and glittered parties. It is a movie about an inherited dream of success reached through a winning lottery ticket.
Kenny's luck starts spinning in the right direction as soon as he reaches the bottom after a series of failures and starts to look for a way to get back on his feet. After a seven-year flash forward, we meet again a very much aged Kenny Wells, proudly featuring a pot belly, some very awful crooked teeth and a receding combover that any sane person would have fixed years before. His appearance truthfully resembles his social status as he manages to climb the vertical mountain of success, fame and wealth.
McConaughey’s performance is at its finest, crafting out of nowhere a very rounded and appealing character capable of really touching our souls
His life changes as soon as he invests the last bit of capital from his family’s failing mining company into a long shot partnership with an old friend, experienced geologist Michael Acosta (Édgar Ramírez) with whom he travels to Indonesia with the hope to find a gold mine inside one of the most visually appealing jungles ever portrayed in a movie. The atmosphere is pumped up as the camera flights above a river where the inhabitants of the jungle usually find little rocks of gold in the depth of the stream. Monsoon’s gusts of wind, humidity and malaria all participate in the making of a speechless panorama that works as the setting of a big chunk of the story.
By combining Kenny Wells’ abilities with organisation and finding sponsors to financially back up their trip and Michael Acosta’s expertise with minerals and mines, the outcomes are quite predictable as the plot continues.
The mine is filled up with real gold and the two start up a company that soon becomes listed in the stock market and gets world-wide acknowledgement.
Most of the story is spent in the research of the gold and in narrating the difficulties of maintaining a solid leadership of the company while other more experienced Wall Street sharks try to take over the board. A very important character happens to be Wells’ girlfriend, Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard), who sticks with her moral beliefs for most of the movie and serves as the story’s soul. As Kenny loses track of his original life, it is heartbreaking to watch her trying to protect him from the pitfalls of the riches’ world.
Gold, however, sometimes feels too unreal to be true. Being based on a true story, it feels even more weird to witness those incredible events unfolding so smoothly. As with The Wolf of Wall Street, Kenny's empire eventually goes through a pattern of rise and fall as we are introduced to a new character: Toby Kebbell’s interviews (or interrogations?) with Wells feel like a very neat plot device that should have been implemented from the very beginning. As soon as the story catches up with the fiscal police interrogations, we understand that something has gone terribly wrong for McConaughey’s character as we are prepared for his downfall.
By this point, we are left with more questions than answers: what is this movie really about? And what its real purpose is? McConaughey’s performance is at its finest, crafting out of nowhere a very rounded and appealing character capable of really touching our souls. Sadly, the same can’t be said for Patrick Massett and John Zinman’s script which fails in delivering the perfect movie, conversely to what (guess who?!) others attempt have more cleverly made.
Stephen Gaghan’s choices are bold and consistent throughout the movie and, at the end of the day, Gold still deserves more than few acknowledgments.