They tell you never to meet your heroes. Yet time and time again, we are suckered into the promise that meeting can bring. That allure becomes too great for one budding country star to pass up. Director Mickey Reese puts the two men together for an absurd night, allowing them to throw barbs and stingers at each other with ease. Country Gold unpeels what it means to be immortal and questions the power of art and symbols in culture.
Troyal Brux (Reese) continues a meteoric rise in the Nashville country music scene. As his fame grows, he catches the attention of the legendary George Jones (Ben Hall). Jones invites the young troubadour out for a night on the town in Nashville. Somewhat starstruck, Brux joins his hero, only to discover the night might be Jones’ last on Earth.
Reese paints the world with a black-and-white to catch the audience off-guard. Country Gold often takes on the visual markers of a timeless conversation, and the lack of color adds to that idea. It allows a sense of tradition to hang over the two men as they share their night, but it’s clear that we should be off-balance.
This starts with Reese’s Brux, who takes on a vocal rhythm unlike any you’ve seen on the big screen. His quickdraw, quippy approach shifts strongly away from Hall’s more gruff tones as Jones. If the age of their characters did not already speak to the distance between the two men, their voices certainly will. Writing the dialogue in such a way allows us to learn more about each man’s psyche. Reese masterfully keeps the rhythm despite two instruments playing at different rates.
This makes some aspects of Country Gold jive well. However, it can also make this world feel surprisingly lifeless. Zapping the world of color and leaving a feeling of displacement. The purgatory we’ve wandered into reflects Jones’ situation as he faces the unknown. At the end of life, what does he have to show for himself beside his loneliness? Removing the color from this world embraces the lack of excitement in Jones’ life and what may await Brux if he’s not careful. This world is no Heaven and far worse than Hell. It’s simply there, and nothing about life will make it more exciting than the life Jones already lived.
As Hall builds out his character Jones, Country Gold wonders what it means to be truly immortal. Literally. As one character questions whether they should engage in cryogenics, the other faces a lifetime of possibility. Pushing them into intense philosophical discussion should create more questions than Country Gold poses. Yet, the story lacks fresh perspective it wants you to believe lie within.
After all, the structure of Country Gold takes some wild swings. We get extended scenes as flashbacks, which undeniably inform us about the past, but do little to inform us about the men at the table today. Reese lets characters seemingly enter and exit the film at a moment’s notice. Even though Country Gold has an entertaining side, we rarely connect with it. Instead, Reese seems intent on breaking form to help his feature stand out. However, this choice also weakens its ability to communicate its ideas.
While Country Gold makes missteps, the ambition helps it feel like a stimulating experience. The dreamlike world Reese creates stands firmly in the world of fiction. This meeting with these characters never occurred. Yet the director’s control of tone and style makes the oddity feel natural. Few directors could sell this tone. Then again, most directors are not as talented as Reese. His unique voice and visual style make Country Gold interesting enough that you should be curious to check out his latest work.