Review by Camden Ferrell
The musical contributions of Donna Summer and Kiss are known across the world by people of all generations. Aside from their fame, both Summer and Kiss were signed to Casablanca Records which was founded by Neil Bogart in 1973. Bogart is a name that might not be as widely known as that of his clients, but he was an influential figure in music, nonetheless. Spinning Gold tells the story of Bogart and his tumultuous journey to success. Directed by his son, Timothy Scott Bogart, there are a handful of fantastic moments in this movie that are ultimately dragged down by poor pacing, uneven storytelling, and undaring artistic choices.
In this movie, we follow the life and career of Neil Bogart who has worn many hats as evidenced by his name changes throughout life. It’s 1973, and he founded Casablanca records while discovering artists like Donna Summer and Kiss. The problem is that nobody is buying their music, and Casablanca is struggling to stay afloat. Through lots of trials, tribulations, and insane bets, we see Bogart seek musical immortality through his company. This is an interesting story that features some major music icons, and it has all the makings of a hit biopic if it was executed properly.
The most noticeable flaw from the start is how unbalanced the storytelling is. Scenes don’t flow together, and at best, it finds its rhythm albeit monotonous. It seems evocative of every other musical biopic of the last ten years while missing out on the fundamentals of screenwriting that made them work in the first place. The dialogue is imitative of better films in the music genre, and it doesn’t do much beyond giving a superficial telling of events.
It’s unclear if this was intended to be an awards-caliber performance from its lead actor, but he certainly is giving it his all as if it was. The film is led by Jeremy Jordan in his biggest film role to date, and I have to give him props for putting his soul into this role. It’s always honorable for an actor to give everything to a role, but it doesn’t always work out. He plays Bogart so intensely, and it could often benefit from more subtlety. It’s also clear that the supporting cast is operating on different frequencies which means Jordan’s performance is lost in a sea of different performances. The only performance that is even worth mentioning is the small supporting role from Dan Fogler which is actually quite funny.
Despite the problems the movie clearly has, there are good things happening. The camerawork (which is only bogged down by bad CGI) is dynamic, and creative in the way it tells its story. There are some highly coordinated movements that are smooth, exciting, and fun to look at. This camerawork combines great music, bold set pieces, and sharp editing to create some electric moments throughout. It’s not enough to combat the movie’s bloated length, but it means you won’t leave the theater totally disappointed.
Spinning Gold tells the story of Casablanca records using the same musical biopic formula seen many times before to mixed effect. Obviously, it has great music, but it’s slow, uneven, and not nearly stimulating enough considering the subject matter. Fans of the cast and Casablanca artists might enjoy it more than others, but for the average viewer, this can wait for VOD.
Spinning Gold is in theaters March 31.