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Annette Kellerman Digs GOLD!


I've never really given much thought to where precious metals come from much less how these minerals are found and extracted from deep inside the earth. Aside from reading controversial stories of laborers (many children) working in "blood" diamond mines in Africa or industrial by-products poisoning water sources for indigenous people in South America, I've never considered the nuts and bolts of actual prospecting. Even though I live in an economy that revolves around the price of gold and I wear a band made of the expensive metal on my finger every day, I fully admit my ignorance regarding this ancient industry. Providing a small yet entirely fascinating window into this world, Matthew McConaughey's latest film GOLD illustrates the major successes as well as epic pitfalls of the volatile profession.

GOLD centers on McConaughey's Kenny Wells, an enigmatic heir to his family's storied prospecting outfit that goes back several generations to America's legendary gold rush days. Though the early 80's were a moderately prosperous time for Kenny's company, the latter part of the decade sees him with a business on the brink of collapse, persona non grata with local lenders, and working with his loyal team out of the local smoke-soaked dive bar. With his last dollar, Kenny flies to Indonesia to meet up with a geologist who has a hunch about a potential new mine deep in the heart of the jungle. Soon the two form a partnership and begin drilling for gold in the uncharted Indonesian wilderness. From here, our protagonist goes through a myriad of highs and lows that force him to reexamine his closest allies, fiercest competitors, and even his own judgement.

GOLD is a really fun film. While it's always a pleasure to see McConaughey in a role that dances around the edge of insanity, director Stephen Gaghan does a great job balancing the "based on a too good to be true story" with plenty of humor. In sharp contrast to McConaughey's madcap prospector, Edgar Ramirez aptly plays straight man Michael Acosta, the geologist and fellow fortune hunter that teams up with the desperate Wells. His determined deadpan and staid manner are a great match with his more audacious fellow excavator as they traverse the ups and downs of the mining business, Wall Street, and even Indonesian royalty.  Additionally, the late 80's/early 90's aesthetic lends the film a delightful bit of nostalgia while also capturing the tacky grit of Wells' charlatan-like nature. Think THE WOLF OF WALL STREET but trade the big city designer opulence of the era for a more down-to-earth big hair/mom jeans/bad suits kind of vibe.


A romantic subplot with Bryce Dallas Howard as Wells' wide-eyed, longtime girlfriend Kay is sweet though slightly extraneous. In her usual fashion, Howard simply lights up the screen in every scene. Although her character certainly provides a great dynamic that reveals much about Wells' morality, I was disappointed to see such a terrific actress in yet another underused love interest role. She absolutely nails the whole "girlfriend who can see through the BS" plot device while still being endearing, but I guess I just wish there was more for her to nail in this role.


Aside from this well-worn gripe, GOLD is a very entertaining take on a high stakes business where cut throat dealings are the stuff of legend. McConaughey certainly doesn't disappoint with his portrayal of the ambitious and ever-optimistic protagonist, even eschewing his famously handsome visage for a balding pate and a bulging belly. Such a seemingly natural feat is just another solid reminder why McConaughey has his own gold- that coveted golden statue adorning his trophy case. So amidst all the awards season's "serious film" hoopla, I totally recommend the fascinating and humorous GOLD. The film opens in theaters January 27.

Rebecca Elliott

aka Annette Kellerman


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