Even tarnished gold still have some value…
For what is an imminently fascinating piece of pop culture history, Spinning Gold still has some value in spite of a chaotic narrative and a distinct lack character development outside of its leading subject which just leads to a high gloss imitation of what this story COULD have been.
What do Donna Summer, Parliament, Gladys Knight, The Isley Brothers, The Village People, and Bill Withers all have in common with the rock band KISS? They all rose to their musical heights under the watchful ear of music producer, Neil Bogart, founder of Casablanca Records, the most successful independent record company of all time. Along with a rag tag team of young music lovers, Neil and Casablanca Records would rewrite history and change the music industry forever. Their mix of creative insanity, a total belief in each other and the music they were creating, shaped our culture and ultimately defined a generation.
While Spinning Gold does successfully capture the freewheeling nature of the music business back in that era and all of the excess that came with it, it actually feels like it’s trying to be a movie musical. With wall to wall music (all be it not the original music recorded by the artists the film is dealing with) and one charismatic lead at the front, it all feels way too anecdotal to be genuinely memorable.
From writer/director Timothy Scott Bogart we’re dropped into a maelstrom of pop culture and music references coming from all directions. Using the character of Neil Bogart as a prism for it all works well enough but there just isn’t a narrative through line that makes us engage with the characters. It’s more about the rise and the fall of the label rather than these people who were endeavouring to change the music industry.
And when you combine all that with the realities that while they have the right to perform the original songs, they don’t have any of the original recordings it makes for an experience that while is enjoyable, is ultimately more a kin to seeing a cover band perform rather than the real thing. That makes the bloat that this movie has, coming in at 137 min feel a little hollow because we were never quite sure if we were getting a bio pic or a movie musical and when it really need to pick a lane, we get something that’s weaving all over the road.
Thankfully Broadway star Jeremy Jordan does a decent job and filling in the shoes of the charismatic and often eccentric Neil Bogart and gives us an anchor for the narrative which seems more focused on the music then moments in these characters lives. Sadly there’s no one else in the movies that really gets any genuine character moments despite the strong supporting cast that includes Michelle Monaghan, Peyton List, Chris Redd, Michael Ian Black, Jay Pharaoh, Lyndsey Fonseca, Vincent Pastore, Dan Fogler, Sebastian Maniscalco and Jason Isaacs. It’s Bogart’s world and the people around him are just living in it.
It’s ironic and a little unfortunate that it’s actually Neil Bogart’s son who was the writer and director here on Spinning Gold. There’s such a fascinating story here that music fans can and will enjoy because while we can’t deny the heart and the passion that comes into play from the telling of this story, it’s somewhat mishandled execution denied us the soul of this story which is what could have made it something truly great.
- Release Date: 3/31/2023