Flights of fancy, stylistic flourishes, and zany situations abound in Big Gold Brick. But for a movie that so clearly wants to come across as quirky and darkly humorous, it’s shockingly dull. The story centers on Samuel Liston (Emory Cohen), a down-on-his-luck writer who, while drunkenly stumbling down the middle of a road, is hit by a car driven by Floyd Deveraux (Andy Garcia). When Samuel is healed up enough to leave the hospital, Floyd hires him to write his biography. And while he’s working on the project, Floyd moves Samuel into his house with his family, which includes his second wife Jacqueline (Megan Fox) and his two children, Edward (Leonidas Castrounis), a disturbed adolescent who might as well be Samuel’s mini-me, and adult Lily (Lucy Hale), a flamed out musician who was the product of Floyd’s first marriage.
The idiosyncratic setup holds promise, but the movie is a tedious slog, and at over two hours it takes some endurance to get through it. While writer and director Brian Petsos seems enamored with his story, incorporating scenes that go on long after the point’s been made, the experience of watching the film doesn’t illicit the same feelings of fascination. It quickly becomes clear that the tale Floyd is weaving for Samuel about his life includes highly questionable details. At the same time Samuel is suffering from some serious mental health issues, likely the product of the accident with Floyd, that makes him just as unreliable a narrator as Floyd. Instead of increasing the intrigue, however, the movie just luxuriates in the confusion, which makes the story feel aimless.
The cast is full of talented actors, but their one-dimensional characters don’t give them much to work with. Cohen may be the one who best captures the tone Petsos is going for, but the way he wallows and screams (all in a terrible wig) often comes across as annoying or troubling instead of offbeat or funny. And although Garcia does his best, he’s never allowed to push Floyd far enough to make him as eccentric as he should be.
Meanwhile, Fox and Hale are depressingly underutilized. Samuel is supposed to be enamored with Lily but the pair have no chemistry and Hale’s screen time is so limited it’s hard to understand what either character sees in the other. Worst of all is Fox’s Jacqueline, a sexpot who will apparently sleep with anyone as long as it’s not her husband. It’s discouraging to see Fox – who can be funny and clever if given the opportunity – once again being objectified here, despite the detail that her character’s a successful lawyer.
The movie meanders along until finding at least a bit of narrative momentum in its last half hour or so, but by then it’s hard to care about much of anything happening onscreen. So when Oscar Isaac shows up for a cameo as a supposedly wacky gangster with foggy spectacles and an unplaceable accent, viewers are more likely to scratch their heads than laugh. Big Gold Brick wants to be whimsically entertaining but it collapses under the weight of its own slapdash idiosyncrasies, resulting in a movie that feels tired instead of inspired.