Maybe an hour or an hour and a half into “Big Gold Brick,” the thought struck me that somebody must really love actor-turned-first-time-feature-director Brian Petsos. But who exactly loved him enough to let him make this pointless, aimless, endless indulgence of a “comedy?”
It’s the sort of empty experience where mind-wandering speculation kicks in. Was it relatives who helped finance it? Parents? Certainly Oscar Isaac must love the guy.
Isaac has a couple of scenes late in the third act. As he’s somebody who has apparently supported the Chicagoan Petsos’ movie-making ambitions by appearing in some of the shorts he made between acting gigs — Petsos was a “Dude” in “MacGruber,” “Pete” in “Bridesmaids,” and Kristen Wiig is listed as a producer here — Isaac may be the reason “Big Gold Brick” got made.
But as Petros attracted Andy Garcia, Megan Fox and Lucy Hale to be in his 132 minute “comic fantasy,” the man must be charming.
The “fantasy” comes from the film’s anti-hero, a disillusioned young writer who, from the comfort of interviews, book readings and signings, tells the story of this “Floyd” fellow who changed his life and is the subject of his book. As for the comedy? It’s nowhere to be found in “Big Gold Brick.”
The film is a laughless, drifting riff on unearned celebrity, the lies people tell about themselves to themselves and anybody gullible to believe them. In film buff terms, it’s a little “Flim Flam Man,” a bit of “The End of the Tour” and a dollop of “The Magic Christian” in its surreal, stream of nothingness episodes about the distracted, ice-cream-loving character (Garcia) who runs over Samuel the would-be writer with his Caddy, and commissions him to write his biography when the hapless Samuel wakes up.
“I challenge you…this was meant to be,” our omnipresent narrator recalls him saying in a voice-over ostensibly from the finished book.
That narrator and the star of the film is Emory Cohen, a bit player bedecked in assorted ill-fitting Ozzy Osborne wigs and so uninteresting as a character, an actor and a screen presence that I wouldn’t mention him at all if it wasn’t required.
Samuel is taken from the hospital to Floyd’s house where he meets Floyd’s dysfunctional family — the much-younger-and-plainly-cheating second wife (Fox), his flirtatious (and nothing else) daughter from his first marriage (Hale) and a disaffected, perhaps sociopathic younger son (Leonidas Castrounis).
The endless narration fills in silent montages of family members’ stories — daughter Lily’s alcoholic and cocaine-fueled breakdown which ended her budding career as a violinist, the wife’s cheating, the son’s bunny killing and Floyd’s yarns about the life that got him this mansion, trophy wife and Cadillac.
“I’m an open book,” he brags. But this will be “a secret book.” Only Floyd talks about it constantly as he drags the befuddled Samuel through his days, introducing him to colleagues and thugs he apparently owes money to as “my biographer.”
Isaac plays the lender — the thug in chief — in a showy, florid performance that dominates the film’s third act because really, Garcia’s charm playing an under-scripted toothpick-obsessed con-man can only take one so far.
There’s telekinesis, a manipulated high school (plainly 30ish) basketball star (Tevin Wolfe), and one person (Shiloh Fernandez) who appears to “really” know Floyd, because they work together and not in anything that would explain Floyd’s large way of living.
As if his toothpicks and fondness for hotel buffets didn’t give him away.
No social, psychological or satiric point is made. No laughs are scored. And nobody involved will be slapping this on their “sizzle reel” or resume…save for the writer-director, who may be beloved but who may never ever get to make another movie after this “all-star” debacle.
Rating: unrated, violence, profanity
Cast: Emory Cohen, Andy Garcia, Megan Fox, Lucy Hale and Oscar Isaac
Credits: Scripted and directed by Brian Petsos: A Samuel Goldwyn release.
Running time: 2:12