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Theyíre not gonna be around forever.  Does it ever really sink into the mind of even a grown child that their parents will not be with them one day?  That the voice on the end of the phone, that figure in the easy chair, that hand to hold, that surety of knowing there was someone who knows and loves you better than anyone else in the world, will disappear forever?  GOLD STAR by first-time feature director, Victoria Negri, lays bare a semi-autobiographical exploration of a young woman coping with the impending loss of her elderly father.

Like many young folks her age, Vicki is drifting; not entirely sure where she belongs, or what sheís meant to do in life.  Her moorings lie in daily runs, visits to the gym, and noncommittal hookups with her bartender boyfriend.  Her family ties are loose, yet strong enough for her head up to Connecticut after her father falls ill with a stroke.  She is ready to support her mother, but the lady is a dynamo of wifely care to the husband sheís still clearly besotted with.  Feeling a bit of a third wheel, Vicki can only sit around as various tests and treatments take place.  Itís a long time to think about life and the reason youíre sitting there; the father who can no longer speak, and is steadily looming toward the inevitable. 

Her habitation at the hospital avails her a new acquaintance in Chris, who is tending his stricken grandfather.  A pole opposite Vickiís dark introspection, Chris is bright, upbeat, and clearly smitten.  He is willing, even enthusiastic to befriend the girlís father, exhibiting much more ease in the silent manís presence than his own daughter.  Much of her time alone with the convalescing Carmine is spent in uncomfortable silence and frustration as he tries, but is no longer able to communicate with his child.  Their time together seems like one overlong pregnant pause and Vicki yearns to be away rather than face uncomfortable personal truths and possible recriminations in the face of her fatherís mortality.

While most narratives are judged by dialogue, one of GOLD STARís most stunning aspects is its use of silence.  Most of Vickiís dilemmas occur inside her head, and not only is the audience able to read them, but we are allowed to project and identify with the characterís moments of loneliness, anger, sadness and fear of the inevitable loss.

Also notable is GOLD STARís gorgeous cinematography, as much as costar in this film as anyone on two legs.  The picturesque views of Connecticut suburban life, where everything is pretty and just so, and oppressively normal, add to the suffocation Vicki feels returning home and withstanding all these undignified feelings, as well as wrestling with her own self-doubt.

The great Robert Vaughn makes his haunting and memorable final screen appearance here as the father seeing his last days.  He relates the sense of loss of the person weíre told Carmine was; a musician, athlete, and vibrant spirit, without any sense of self-pity.  Things are what they are, and Carmine is making of them what he can.  Vaughn makes Carmineís desire for peace with his child palpable, while avoiding over-sentiment or schmaltz.  Itís a performance that makes the viewer feel the deep connection between the family members, and their knowledge of where they can press or pull, and the often delicate dance that naturally occurs.

GOLD STAR simmers up to its emotional climax, which is less about the daily urgencies of coping with an ailing older parent (though it is there) than it is about Vicki coming clean to her father, and her wish for his understanding, even though she might not fully understand herself.

Painterly and lyrical, GOLD STAR is a rare glimpse into the heart of an artist, and her inspiring catharsis in the face of heartbreaking loss.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

Nov. 27th, 2017



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