This is the fourth in an on-going series detailing films that were aborted mid-viewing, and why we couldn’t even finish them.
The ‘McConaissance’ blasted off in 2011. After years of squandering his talents starring in shallow popcorn friendly rom-coms, Matthew McConaughey seemed to have decided to start choosing his roles more selectively; and his acting chops were rising to the level that was called for in the prestige roles he chose. It began in 2011 with The Lincoln Lawyer, Bernie, and Killer Joe; then 2012’s Magic Mike and 2013’s Mud. In 2013 he fully asserted himself as a preeminent talent in Hollywood when he took home the Best Actor prize at the Academy Awards for Dallas Buyers Club. He continued in 2013 with a strong supporting role in The Wolf of Wall Street. 2014’s Interstellar and HBO’s first season of True Detective pushed McConaughey to the point of near overexposure, if it weren’t for each showing being stronger than the last. During the heyday of the ‘McConaissance’, he racked up 3 Hitchaboo wins. But now it is 2017,;and with a string of film duds (The Sea of Trees, Free State of Jones, and now 2016’s Gold, the ‘McConaissance’ is officially over.
Whether its bad luck or poor acting choices or weak collaboration teams, McConaughey has found himself in a serious rut. Gold looks good on paper, with Academy Award winning director Stephen Gaghan (2000’s Traffic and 2005’s Syriana) leading the production. Joining McConaughey is a well known cast including Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramirez, and Corey Stoll. Gold is billed as ‘The Wolf of Wall Street‘ of the gold trade industry. With as good as this all sounds, nothing here works at all…not even a little bit.
The script is underdeveloped; providing little clue to the audience of how things for McConaughey’s Kenny Wells’ life went from bad to good to great and back to bad before becoming even worse. Instead, there are dramatic shifts of tone, and we are lost figuring out how it all happened. Gold‘s script is populated with cliche after cliche – whether it’s money-counting drug-fueled binge montages, or just plain scene rip-offs from The Wolf of Wall Street; Gold never finds its own voice.
The characters of Gold are rudimentary ‘cardboard cut-outs’, making it hard what they for an audience to feel invested in their story arcs. Viewers never feel like you know McConaughey’s Kenny Wells – a gold prospector executive in the body of a used car salesman. His choices come off as random because we never get a full sense of who he is or what he is doing. We are left guessing as to the motivations of the lead character more than we should be. McConaughey is definitely committed to the role, but what that role is – we aren’t really sure.
The relationship between McConaughey’s Kenny Wells and his girlfriend Kay, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, should be the backbone of this film. Instead, Howard floats in and out of the film, absent for inexplicably long stretches. When the audience should be sympathizing for McConaughey’s misery as he is cry-yelling his pleas of ‘You never believed in me’ and ‘You love me losing’ to Howard, we instead are confused about where all this drama is coming from. It’s also probably best we ignore Bryce Dallas Howard’s accent (is she supposed to be a New Yorker or a Southerner?); which seems to float in and out of scenes as much as her character does.
To be frank, this is an embarrassment for director Stephen Gaghan, for writers Patrick Massett and John Zinman, and for Matthew McConaughey. All things must come to an end, and Gold is proof that the ‘McConaissance’ is over.
And for that reason, this film was aborted.
The Perpetrators: Everyone Involved