How, exactly, do you describe a film like Big Gold Brick? Well, in short, that conundrum is ultimately the film’s major triumph. In an era where commercialism has battened down the hatches on unbridled imagination, it is about as refreshing as a frozen lemon to be puzzled by an oddity in a universe far, far away from committee design. With singularity, director, producer and writer Brian Petsos has announced himself as a radical new independent hope housed happily outside of commercial Hollywood with his debut feature film, Big Gold Brick.
In this dark comic frenzy, Andy Garcia, Oscar Isaac, Megan Fox and Lucy Hale offer up star turns alongside the protagonist Emery Cohen. However, a solidified synopsis regarding a writer thrust into manic biographer territory by mystic circumstances remains a little beyond our reach at this stage in proceedings. The film is a little too far out for conventional practice.
And living out in this independent wilderness has its own inherent challenges. “I think on a relative basis, we did okay with the budget. My thing was thinking, ‘How can we make this look triple what we have?’ The first way to do that is you don’t do a lot of takes. I had 40 days of stuff worth to shoot in 30 actual days. It was break-neck and brutal,” Petsos begins.
The last day of the break-neck gamble into feature films was a 22-hour spree. Amid this final sequence to enter the can is “a tableau of buildings” — the sort that renders skyscrapers into heavenly fingers like God’s own urban diorama. Despite the exhaustive day, this farewell to filming on the Big Gold Brick was a perfect tableau for the highs and lows of filmmaking.
As Petsos explains about its serendipitous start: “The super foggy initial shot was the most beautiful lucky thing. You get up on the 50th floor of this building, and all the clouds had settled down to create the most mystical looking thing. I think the Raptors had won the championship, and people were shooting fireworks, and they were breaking through the clouds. It was pretty magical.”
However, soon fantasy would succumb to farce, because up there filming in the rafters, “someone pulled the fire alarm in that building, and Megan Fox was forced to run down 50 flights of stairs and then run back up. There was no fire, just some jerk,” Petsos adds.
As it happens, while we’re speaking of tableaus, this particular tale happens to be a pretty perfect one for the film itself. Amid the twisted concoction of folly, fever dreams and everything else is a cycle of starry-eyed wonder and the realist comedown of dark comedy barely containable within a brief synopsis.
The press release does its best to describe it all as “living somewhere in the universe between Charlie Kaufman and Cohen brothers”. While that might undoubtedly titillate the right fans for the movie, it is ultimately incomparable. “I tend to not really stand around staring at particular directors. I’m more influenced by particular films than I am a certain director’s entire body of work.”
If that particular comment from Petsos sets it up nicely to compare Big Gold Brick to other films, then sadly, that is a task I can’t shape up to complete. Sure, there are touchstones in the wild operatic styling to the recent Leo Carax and Sparks brothers collaboration Annette, and the snappy realist dialogue carries the meter and wit of a Coen brothers fan, all bubbling up in a party keen not to take itself too seriously like Spike Jonze after a few beers. Still, those are merely threads in the woven welter of something swirlingly singular and, ultimately, personal.
It might seem hard to figure out how such a cinematic oddity can also be personal, but Petsos can explain that too. “The initial kernel of it was someone very close to me suffered a really serious brain injury, and him coming back from that was crazy! I mean hallucinations, depression beyond depression. The whole gamut, anything you can extrapolate or think of happened. And I thought, ‘oh, these seem like a great opportunity for some nice dark comedy,’ it goes out in its own direction from there, but that was its initial impetus.”
This realist kernel at the centre of the cinematic kaleidoscope is a reminder of a truth often forgotten about in the departmental commoditised modern world of modern cinema: reality is surreal, and it most certainly doesn’t sit within genres. Thus, if the first triumph of the film is that it is indescribable, then the second shines through in Petsos’ own determination to pursue it. As he concluded himself: “It isn’t easy at all. I have faith that people can continue to be forward-thinking in their writing and filmmaking, and I have a tonne of faith that there is a tonne of people out there to eat it up. I hope that people continue to put money on the line where cool stuff is concerned.”
Big Gold Brick will be available across all digital platforms and theatrically starting February 25, 2022 – Please visit https://bit.ly/WatchBigGoldBrick for platforms and theatres. You can find the trailer below, and fortunately, the synopsis that Samuel Goldwyn Films have kindly offered up for it.
“Big Gold Brick recounts the story of fledgling writer Samuel Liston and his experiences with Floyd Deveraux, the enigmatic middle-aged father of two who enlists Samuel to write his biography. But the circumstances that lead up to this arrangement in the first place are quite astonishing—and efforts to write the biography are quickly stymied by ensuing chaos in this darkly comedic, genre-bending film.”