Mickey Reece’s Country Gold also stars the director as country music artist Troyal Brux (clearly modeled, at least visually, on Garth Brooks, whom Reece vaguely resembles). According to an opening news segment, Troyal is verging on legendary status, his records having outsold the likes of Madonna and Michael Jackson. We’re introduced to him as a man of both tremendous ego and almost absurd social naïveté, doing things like complaining his way through a commercial shoot or merely bragging endlessly about his talent. These early sections of the movie resemble Reece’s off-kilter version of a Danny McBride comedy; certainly Troyal would fit in with the inflated loser at the heart of something like The Foot Fist Way.
Things take a turn when Troyal receives a letter from his idol, the iconic George Jones (Reece’s frequent collaborator Ben Hall), who invites him to Nashville to hang out. Troyal’s obvious glee at getting to spend time with a living legend slowly becomes a slide into melancholy and eventually some actual self-reflection as Jones not only takes him along on a night of debauchery, but also reveals that this is his last night of consciousness — he’s chosen to be cryogenically frozen so that he can be reawakened in the future.
This bit of absurdism doesn’t seem remotely out of place in Reece’s filmmaking — just look at the way last year’s haunting and inventive Agnes shifts gears halfway through from a spooky exorcism movie into something altogether more thoughtful — and he deploys it as the perfect weapon to force Troyal to examine the legacy he thinks he’s building, not just as a musician but as a husband and a father. He’s also made to reckon with his healthy ego; it quickly becomes clear that he’s a sincerely vulnerable guy, especially when that ego is attacked, as in an early scene in which Jones chastises him for ordering a well-done steak.
Reece’s images in Country Gold are concise although not quite as stylized as in previous films, and that suits the shagginess of the story here. His usual placid frames and measured pacing wouldn’t make sense in this weird and occasionally vignette-ish film, even while it maintains his typically uncanny dreamlike sensibilities. This prolific and increasingly essential Oklahoma DIY filmmaker has been steadily pumping out one idiosyncratic piece after another, year after year, like clockwork. The rewards offered in this latest work might not equal those of Agnes, or especially that of his masterpiece, the Elvis Presley biopic Alien, but it’s a similarly singular outing nonetheless. Put simply, nobody else is making movies like this.
Published as part of Fantasia Fest 2022 — Dispatch 4.