Film Review: City of Gold

Posted in Reviews, Top Stories by - April 08, 2016
Film Review: City of Gold

“I’m an L.A. guy.” These were the first words spoken by the Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic and author, Jonathan Gold. Yes, believe it or not, the title of this documentary is about a regular guy, who also happens to be a highly respected and genuinely humble expert on food. As he so clearly summed it up, even while he has earned the greatest of accomplishments a writer could ever hope for, his original passion as a musician (playing the cello) serves as a reminder that he failed before he succeeded. He appears to remain unchanged from his accolades and THAT, in and of itself, is a charming quality we should all be able to appreciate in any subject, even in a documentary.

While there is no doubt that THIS documentary seems to be a bit self-serving; seemingly trying to convince, or even just “tell,” its audience why Los Angeles IS the greatest city in the U.S.A., there are, indeed, moments in which the people in the film at least “attempt” to educate us about what makes L.A. a unique place.

Laura Gabbert is credited with directing, producing and writing this movie. For those of you unfamiliar with her work, just understand that there is a totally different world, when it comes to making documentaries, as opposed to fictional films. Gabbert’s most recent work came back in 2009, with “No Impact Man.”

After I shook off the initial reaction of what I was watching, I found myself trying to give this movie a chance. After all, there are not too many films about critics, let alone with a critic, of ANY kind, being the focal point of the story. Like most people, Gold is not JUST a food critic. According to at least one person in the documentary, he is a “cultural commentator.” There is, apparently, a teaching aspect that comes with being a critic. In other words, you must be more than just an opinion maker. These days, especially, almost anyone can be a “critic,” but if simply tossing a round, leather ball were enough to make one a “basketball player,” the NBA would not be big enough for all of the so-called competitors in this country.

I, myself, am no stranger to the ego aspect of being a critic. Certain jobs and career fields tend to attract certain people and the world of being a profession critic is no different. At some point, though, reality sets in and one must understand his or her place in this world. Gold reminds HE of that on a regular basis. What better way is there to keep your own, personal ego in check? What does Gold say to himself? Is he simply just grateful for the overwhelming opportunities that this “job” has provided him? What did he think when a director approached him, with the intention of a making a documentary, just about he, as a failed musician, turned award-winning writer and critic? It is a soggy dream, but far from being a nightmare, is it not?

When I think about the bulk of the movie, I am pleased with what I saw. It is straight as an arrow, enjoyable in a very relaxing kind of way and, above all, relatable. Gold is a person’s person. He grew up in uninteresting circumstances and the biggest influences seem to come from his parents’ encouragement to read and their attempts to learn from as many different types of walks of life as possible. Unintentionally or NOT, “City of Gold” opens the imaginative mind to outside-the-box thinking. MY thoughts? You do not have to be an “L.A. guy” to enjoy the spice of life, which is variety. Jonathan Gold would likely agree.

With all that said, I cannot help but wonder if the fact that this IS an LA. Film will work to isolate some viewers from being able to fully grasp the point of this movie. It IS a love piece and Gold should feel honored, but how many prospective moviegoers will actually care about what they are seeing when they watch “City of Gold?” I can safely say that I like Jonathan Gold, but I cannot say the same thing about “City of Gold.”

Official Trailer:

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