The narrative thrust of Goldie is a music video, and it’s shot like one too. Writer/Director Sam de Jong’s Tribeca entry follows an 18-year-old on the run in the Bronx, determined to keep her younger sisters beyond the grasp of Child Protective Services and make it to set for her first appearance as a backup dancer. The push-and-pull between Goldie’s daily struggles and the joyousness of her dreams gives the movie its structure. At its best, Goldie is a celebration of dreaming, of the future, more glamorous self young artists hold inside of them.
Goldie, the character, is hard not to like. In her feature debut, Slick Woods brings duel bitterness and charm to the performance, an enthusiasm for the friends, clothes, and props, that will help make her a star, and an anger toward the conditions that prevent her from living responsibility-free. Those conditions are many, including her firing from a department store and her mother’s arrest on drug charges. The arrival of the police at the door forces Goldie to hit the road with her two sisters, fearing that government intervention would likely place Sherrie and Supreme in different homes.
The narrative builds fluidly from the point of initial escape, as Goldie enlists a cadre of friends, mentors, relatives, and creeps to help. There’s Eli (George Sample III), the earnestly-devoted friend who can only help Goldie’s scheming so much given his record. There’s Jose (Jose Fernandez), Goldie’s much-older ex who mistakenly thinks he can continue to exploit Goldie with the promise of cash she’ll never see. And there’s Frank (Danny Hoch), the doofus boyfriend of Goldie’s mom who provides perhaps the movie’s oddest and best moment when he and Goldie wait in the empty hallway of an apartment complex for a drug deal to go down. Frank decides this moment of utter dread is the best time to convince Goldie that he really, truly does love her mother.
The movie avoids devolving into tragedy because of Goldie’s competence. She keeps moving, not just for her sisters but for herself, to find the couple hundred bucks she needs to buy the yellow fur coat she’s been eyeing for the video shoot. Animation and interstitials occasionally cut into the movie to remind us that the world can still be a playground for Goldie when things go right, and that the music video style is the source inspiration for this story.
The script is in love with the state of being 18. Goldie is at once a kid prone to daydreaming about presents — the fur coat here serves the same purpose as the Red Ryder BB gun in A Christmas Story — and an adult willing to try anything to protect her family. It’s not so much a coming-of-age story; Goldie doesn’t change much over the course of the movie’s couple days. The movie is more interested in how Goldie negotiates her dreaming against her responsibilities in the now.
The film is at its weakest when it has to find a way to end. Once the script runs out of new characters to introduce, it arrives at a conclusion that feels not quite true to the Goldie we’ve come to know.
Escape provides Goldie its emotional power. Goldie and her sisters have a material need to escape their home, to preserve their family unit by going on the lam. But one escape is not enough for Goldie, she wants freedom from her responsibilities. Goldie spends the film fighting for the right to be selfish. She refuses to give up the self she’s trying to create, even when her family is at risk. That’s a condition particular to young adulthood, of seeing each setback as a credential in one’s own artist resume. Over-stylized it may be, but Goldie grasps the joy in relentless self-conviction.
Goldie made its North American Premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival April 25th.