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DIRECTED BY: Brian Petsos
FEATURING: , , , Lucy Hale,
PLOT: After smashing his car into a suicidal scribe, the driver hires the writer as his biographer.
COMMENTS: This film left me with a weight in my heart. A weight of approximately 313 pounds per cubic foot, when it had aspirations of four times that. To the science-y types amongst you, this clumsy metaphor will come across as modestly clever, albeit markedly pertinent. Big Gold Brick, a recent addition to the Hipster-Com-Core genre (“too”-clever, “too”-stylized mysterious-esque films), has the veneer of a shiny new bauble to be melted down and enjoyed: a cryptical client, ironic soundtrack, eccentrics over every shoulder, and a splintered protagonist. It is only around the half-way juncture that Brian Petsos’ feature debut lets slip that it’s faking it—because its key element is missing.
Samuel is, for reasons of various legitimacy, on the cusp of suicide. His first instincts, kicking into furious gear in an opening montage of heavy drinking and light mess-making, spur him to abandon his apartment (owing five months back rent, no less; that West Coast Sam ain’t got nothin’ on this guy), and travel by bus to “Rockchester,” carrying nothing but his typewriter and his crumpled suicide note. From the station, Samuel walks into on-coming traffic in time for Floyd (Andy Garcia) to aspirate some tasty frozen custard while driving his Cadillac. For surly Sam, a crash, a hospital stay, some possible brain damage, and an offer of a writing gig; for Floyd, the shaggy-dog-story-teller in this shaggy-dog movie, a chance for some validation after a life of near-misses.
“Near miss.” Now that would have been an efficient way to describe Big Gold Brick. But seeing as Petsos takes the long way around, I return the favor. The fact of the matter is, it almost works, largely because of the secondary lead. Andy Garcia’s turn as an ex-military “plastics, lenses, and lasers” scientist is both quirky and endearing. Floyd is a delight, as are the bizarre sequences sloshed around with tasteful abandon. Some are mundanely surreal, as when Floyd is talking with the brain specialist at the hospital. The good doctor lights a cigarette, prompting Floyd to inquire, “Can you smoke here?,” to which the doctor takes a puff and nonchalantly replies, “No, you can’t.” Others are sudden, literal, bursts: Floyd (and an unlucky co-worker) discover that the gun actually does function, despite suspicions otherwise.
Megan Fox makes the most of it in her turn as sex-vixen lawyer wife. Lucy Hale is believably spiky and fragile as the cocaine-pixie-dream-girl. And Oscar Isaac lovingly chomps through every Austrian-accented, hyper-limping, bearded corporate crime lord moment as Anselm Vogelweide. The improbable wash nearly carries the film, except, unfortunately, for another casting choice. The lead. I know from Lords of Chaos that Emory Cohen can be very convincing. But surrounded by this cast of weirdos, his bumbling mannerisms and unconvincing narration fall flatter than a pancake on a sheet of drywall.
Big Gold Brick‘s current abysmal rating of 3.4 on IMDb is undeserved. Except, of course, if one bears in mind what this might have been.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“…begins as a tragedy before veering into a wild, outrageously funny and unashamedly bizarre ride… a bold, wildly entertaining and provocative trip down the rabbit hole. It deserves to become a cult classic in the vein of Donnie Darko.”–Avi Offer, NYC Movie Guru (contemporaneous)