Country Gold

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Country Gold
"Shot in lush black and white with a depth and tonality which makes every frame look worthy of becoming an art print." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

Some people make films for money. Some people make films to appeal to niche audiences. Mickey Reece makes films because he can. His stories are pure things, unfolding in their own time according to their own logic, and the results are always beguiling, albeit not always entirely successful by broader standards.

Country Gold, he says, is probably the only film about country music he will make, but there’s very little country music in it – like all his work, it’s really about the culture surrounding a particular idea. In this case, the central idea concerns legendary musician George Jones (played by this longstanding favourite Ben Hall) deciding to summon Garth Brooks-style rising star Troyal Brux (played by Reece himself) to Nashville for a night of drinking and conversation. What the starstruck Troyal doesn’t know is that this is to be George’s last night on Earth, at least for quite some time, as the ageing star has arranged to have himself cryogenically frozen.

Shot in lush black and white with a depth and tonality which makes every frame look worthy of becoming an art print, this is a film about fame, integrity, the expectations which accompany celebrity and, most of all, conversation. There is plenty of that as the two men navigate their different agendas. George frequently becoming frustrated by Troyal and sometimes toying with him but gradually realising that there is something real beneath his layers of projection, whilst Troyal learns to let go of the figure he has built up in his mind since childhood and accept – and come to care for – the real man sitting in front of him. Along the way they fight, fall out, grudgingly apologise and test one another’s boundaries in a film which sometimes feels like a romcom designed around different kinds of love.

In the background, Reece’s stable to tried and tested supporting players people the bars of this surreal, Turner Classic Movies style Nashville, where the camera tilts upward at illuminated signs and fans look out for famous names to photograph or fuck. Troyal wants none of the latter. He strives to be a decent family man, plainly missing his wife and phoning home for emotional support when it becomes clear that this night isn’t going the way he expected. He is persuaded to drink alcohol, however, and then, in the company of George’s various hangers on and a group of extremely friendly young young women, he slips a little, finding it hard to walk the line as carefully as he might have done before. There’s a sense that the traditions which George represents are dragging him into the past, into the old way of doing things, even as George himself is preparing to step into the future.

How well it works for you will depend on how you engage with Reece’s distinctive form of comedy, the quirky supporting characters and George’s tall tales. Some will find it too slow, even ponderous. Others will fall in love. It is a singular film, a complete piece of art, and singularly uninterested in compromise. Reece has yet to make his masterpiece, but this curious addition to the Fantasia International Film Festival line-up is another step along the way.

Reviewed on: 01 Aug 2022
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George Jones invites country music superstar Troyal Brooks out on the town in Nashville the night before George is to be cryogenically frozen in 1994.

Director: Mickey Reece

Writer: Mickey Reece, John Selvidge

Starring: Cate Jones, Colleen Elizabeth Miller, Mickey Reece, Ben Hall, Lisandro Boccacci, Danielle Evon Ploeger

Year: 2022

Country: US

Festivals:

Fantasia 2022

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