What would happen if a person you idolized invited you, from out of the blue, to have dinner with them? That’s the setup for Country Gold, a film by writer/director/actor Mickey Reece, which showed at this year’s Fantastic Fest.
Fantastic Fest, the largest genre film festival in the country, shows horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action, and unusual films that don’t necessarily fit into standard genres. The 2022 edition screened primarily at Austin’s iconic Alamo Drafthouse Theater – South Lamar. It also used online options and other venues to give fans more chances to see the films.
Who Is That
Country Gold takes place in 1994. Reece plays Troyal Brux, a country singer on the rise. Brux receives an invitation from country music legend George Jones, his hero, for a night on the town in Nashville.
From the late 1950s till 1990 George Jones was one of the biggest names in country music. His most famous song is probably “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” In the film, Ben Hall plays Jones.
The film, done in black and white to give it an old-time flavor, really captures a country feel. I felt at times that I was watching the Circle Television Network, where the Grand Ole Opry broadcasts.
A night on the town? That doesn’t sound too exciting. Mickey Reece calls his style of filmmaking “two people talking in a room.” Even less exciting, right?
Now the Excitement
Here’s where the satire and the human predicament come in.
What Brux doesn’t know is that on the following day Jones intends to have himself cryogenically frozen. (No, that did not really happen.) Jones has a heart problem and plans to return sometime in the indeterminate future when this can be fixed. Before saying goodbye to the world, he wants to have one more night of fun, and pass the torch to a new country star. That’s why he chooses Brux.
What follows? Partying involving booze, drugs, crazy fans, and ladies looking for fun and sugar daddies.
The conversations that go on as the partying progresses make the film enjoyable. What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to create art? If you compromise your art for commercial reasons, are you a fraud?
As the night progresses, the partying challenges the two men’s integrity, and gives them reasons to argue those big ideas. Brux wonders if he’s good enough. Jones wonders if he’s over the hill or was any good to begin with. First one seems to be winning the arguments, then the other. This is a battle of youth and doubt versus age and disillusionment.
The battle is worth the watching and by morning, both men have grown and make decisions about their lives.
And it’s funny.
After the Fantastic Fest screening, Reece and his fellow actors and filmmakers answered questions about the film.
An audience question about the title confirmed that the film qualifies as a lighthearted romp, while tackling heavy questions about life. The Alamo Drafthouse crowd member asked whether “Country Gold” referred to Jones and his music. Reece answered, “No. There used to be a brand of dog food named Country Gold. I liked the name, so I used it.”
Another audience member asked about production challenges.
Reece shared that they produced the film in Oklahoma and the film commission promised them tax rebates. However, the week filming was to begin, they yanked the credits because someone didn’t like the fact that the younger singer in the screenplay was identified as Oklahoma’s native son, Garth Brooks.
Reece explained that after a short panic, they changed the name of the younger singer to Troyal Brux and the tax exemptions were restored.
You can watch a trailer for the film below.
To get updates about future Fantastic Fest events and ways to view its films, check its website.