Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Criticism is art, says most professional critics like the one profiled in the new documentary City of Gold (opening today). Jonathan Gold is a semi-famous food critic who rose to popularity by discovering restaurants and food trucks off the beaten path. He loves food, and loves what he does, yet has a simplistic, descriptive style that "normal" non-critic-types can relate to. And while this documentary isn't as inventive or exciting as some of the dishes Gold critiques, it does enough to satisfy the senses.
Working as a cross between a lost episode of Anthony Bourdain's CNN series "Parts Unknown," and an excerpt of A.O. Scott's book, "Better Living Through Criticism," the movie follows around its subject, the bulbous, disheveled Mr. Gold, as he experiences little- known, exotic restaurant hot-spots in and around Los Angeles. Towards the beginning of the film, he tells us that there is much more to LA than what most people have in their heads (a notion I can relate to as a Detroit-er). Director Laura Gabbert does a great job of making us feel like we are taking back-road after side-street through portions of the LA city and suburbs that are rarely navigated by those not from the area.
Much of the film though, is critics talking about criticism and the value of criticism in modern culture. As a critic, I found it fascinating, but I have a feeling it won't translate all that well for everyone else. It's literally food for thought.
We also are shown several different business owners, many of them family-owned, and are given their stories. It's a cliched notion - that the best food comes from passion passed down generation to generation - but one that the film spends a lot of time on regardless. If nothing else, you'll leave hungry.
If City of Gold was a five-course meal, it would be comprised of a tasty appetizer that aroused the palette, followed by a very well- made, if uninspired, second course. But as the meal progresses, we're offered nothing new and by the time its consumed, you'll swear it was served a bit stale.
Jonathan Gold is a very interesting, eccentric individual at the top of his craft, doing a job that he absolutely loves. It's just too bad that the film he is featured in doesn't possess the same unique flare or flavor that he craves in his work.
Run Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes, Rated R
Written & Directed by Laura Gabbert (No Impact Man: The Documentary, Sunset Story)
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