GOLD STAR (2017)
Starring Victoria Negri, Robert Vaughn, Catherine Curtin, Jacob Heimer, Anna Garduno, Katie Maguire, Max Rhyser, Roberta Raffone Niwore, Clifton Dunn, Michael Jefferson, Rebeca Fong, Jonathan Ercolino and Effie Fradelos.
Screenplay by Victoria Negri.
Directed by Victoria Negri.
Distributed by Big Vision Creative. 90 minutes. Not Rated.
The illness of a close family member can be heartbreaking, frustrating, exhausting and confusing. When someone who has always been so vital and self-confident is suddenly stripped of their abilities and their dignity, the relationship swing can be massive. Caring for those who once cared for you is a difficult role-reversal for both parties.
This kind of dramatic familial shift has inspired writer and director Victoria Negri to create this labor of love. A few years in the making, Gold Star is based upon her own life, and how things changed when her much older father had a stroke. (In the film, her character is in her late 20s, and her father is 90. I do not know if that completely reflects real life.) Suddenly, a man who had been vital and independent was relying on her mother for everything. And as much as her mother was bending over backwards and doing whatever she could to help, she needed some help herself.
It is certainly a dramatic situation for anyone to have to deal with. And Gold Star does make for a pretty realistic look at this hard period in everyone’s life. It is sometimes difficult to watch, but that is mostly in the ways that life can sometimes be hard to deal with.
Negri plays Vicki (further pointing out the autobiographical content), a woman who had long ago moved away from home to the big city in pursuit of her musical dreams. At this point, those dreams are pretty much dashed, she is working the graveyard shift at a 24-hour gym and dating a small-time musician with some odd kinks of his own.
She is called home by her mother (Catherine Curtin of Stranger Things) because she needs help caring for her father. But can she go home again? Vicki tries bridging her two worlds, going back and forth from Connecticut to New York. While having trouble dealing with having to care for her dad, she also has to try to get along with her estranged half-sister (Anna Garduno), who appears to be planning out inheritance items.
Also, while visiting her dad at the hospital, she meets a nice local guy named Chris (Jacob Heimer), who gets along well with her dad, obviously would do anything for her, and comes with a lot less baggage than her boyfriend in the city.
However, this film really rises and falls on the brave, terrific work of the late actor Robert Vaughn (The Man from UNCLE) in his final role. Vaughn’s part of the father is nearly wordless, and yet it is stunningly touching. It was certainly a bold choice for Vaughn to allow himself to be seen portraying a man in such an infirm state, and yet he still has the leading-man look, the flowing mane of hair and innate charisma, which makes it even more tragic to see his character unable to walk, talk or care for himself. Vaughn is able to convey more feelings with a look or a gesture than many actors could do with an entire speech.
There are some points where Negri’s inexperience as a writer/director do show themselves, particularly in some plot points late in the film. For example, there is a sequence where Vicki and Chris have an argument in which she says some horribly mean things to him, apparently fracturing their friendship and budding romance. Soon afterwards he’s just back, with no explanation of how or why he forgave her outburst. It’s like it never happened, or perhaps the reconciliation ended up on the cutting room floor. A similar uncomfortable shift occurs with Vicki’s half-sister, where a lifetime of bitter resentments is apparently set aside on a voicemail message.
However, for the most part, Gold Star holds together pretty well. It has some wonderful acting, high drama and even some laughs in the mix. Most of all, Gold Star is worth seeing for Robert Vaughn’s stunning work in his final role. It was quite a way to cap a wonderful career.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 15, 2017.