Victoria Negri‘s “Gold Star” is a simple you’ve-got-to-come-home-again tale of a daughter forced to leave her life in the Big City to go back and take care of her infirm father.
It’s no shock that “Vicki,” the character Negri wrote for herself and plays in the picture, is the better for it. But there are wrinkles to this sensitive story that add interest, elements of plot, romantic complications and the like.
And perhaps the best of those “wrinkles” is the late Robert Vaughn, as “Gold Star” was his final film.
As stroke victim Carmine, he doesn’t speak. He’s lost the use of his legs. But he’s still got that impressive Vaughn mane of hair, which helps explain why, at 90, his second wife (Catherine Curtin) grouses about the things you don’t think about “when you marry somebody twice your age.” He’s still dashing, still has that twinkle about him. And he beautifully underplays the unspoken life-lessons he’s teaching his youngest daughter, getting across what he means with just a tear, just a moment of need.
Vicki has a life in the city. Sure, she’s a music school drop-out who isn’t doing anything with her talent. But she’s got a live-in bartender/pothead/would-be-guitar-hero boyfriend, so that’s something.
Mom’s increasingly strident demands that “I NEED you here,” cannot be ignored. So Vicki tries her hand at popping back into New York (Mom and Dad live in Connecticut), clinging to the life she has there.
Even after she meets a “nice guy” at the hospital. Chris (Jacob Heimer) is a dutiful grandson (his grandfather is ill), a law student and a bit boring and anal retentive. Whatever possibilities exist there, she’s got to get over her innate stranger danger.
“I’m not going to kill you and wear your skin,” Chris re-assures her, puncturing her “Silence of the Lambs” fantasy.
Chris is kind, gets along with her father and seems intent on injecting himself into her life.
And Vicki is torn, upset at seeing how empty her New York life was, still resentful at the thought of a long-term provincial future, and seriously stressed about the nursing care she’s expected to provide (but untrained for). Diaper changes?
“I’m not supposed to DO that,” she shouts at the old man, as if his hearing is gone, along with his ability to speak.
There’s not a lot to this, aside from the good acting. “Gold Star” (What do we get on our report cards when we’ve been good?) has maybe one decent surprise.
But it’s the comfort zone Negri creates around this “We’re all going to deal with this, sooner or later” subject and the warmth Vaughn projects in a seriously circumscribed performance make it worthwhile.
MPAA Rating: unrated, with sexual situations, marijuana use
Cast: Victoria Negri, Catherine Curtin, Robert Vaughn, Jacob Heimer
Credits: Written and directed by Victoria Negri. A Big Vision release.
Running time: 1:30