Goldie’s dream is to be a dancer in a hip hop video. And nothing, even being thrown onto the streets and made homeless, will get in the way of her achieving that dream. Engagement with this drama set in the poverty-stricken South Bronx will heavily depend on how you feel about social media stardom and the need to be accepted by a culture that revolves around superficiality.
Sam de Jong’s latest at first promises a fun character study, punctuated by hand-drawn animation superimposed over the grainy textures of shooting on 16mm. Rings, bubbles and block colours surround Goldie as she weaves through the streets providing a quick and visually stimulating introduction to the character. And the first act carries on in this fashion – Robert Grigsby Wilson’s playful editing combining the visuals and occasional non-diagetic sound effects to bring rhythm to a film that is sorely lacking in the script department – each character is introduced by a title card and the cheeky voice of Goldie’s younger sister.
When Goldie’s shared housing falls apart due to her mother’s drug dealing, Goldie and her two young sisters are forced to roam the Bronx couch-surfing and asking favours. Despite her desperate situation, Goldie naively thinks being in a music video will be the way to save her sisters from Child Services, fuelling her selfish need to buy a $300 fur coat, and thus propelling her into the spotlight. Initially presented as a headstrong 18-year old hell bent on proving herself, Goldie’s precociousness quickly becomes anything but headstrong. Her constant railing against society veers the character into being unlikable, rendering any kind of narrative payoff emotionally impotent.
De Jong’s previous work often centres on the search for identity, and Goldie is no different, the $300 coat personifying her supposed bright future. But once the three sisters are out on the streets the plot grinds to a halt as Goldie pings from one potential source of money to the next sans the rhythm of the film’s opening. This slog of a second act would be more bearable if the film explored how/why Goldie developed such a worldview and the wider implications of hip hop superficiality – the motif of going in circles dangling an avenue the film fails to fully engage with. In de Jong’s defence, the final act goes some way to providing some answers, but is more of an afterthought than the second act revelation it should be, opening the film up to deeper narrative opportunities.
Slick Woods provides a promising acting debut, but one can’t help but wonder what the film could’ve been guided by a tighter script. Is Sam de Jong the right fit for a film set and operating in a predominantly black community? Especially considering the wealth of black talent that has blossomed in the past few years. The result of the mid-film narrative quagmire means that Goldie is a mixed bag that has some good visual ideas tacked onto a paper-thin plot and set of characters – so in some ways, faithful to the superficial aspirations of its lead.
Writer/Director: Sam de Jong
Starring: Slick Woods, George Sample III, Danny Hoch