‘Spinning Gold’ Review: “Long Live Disco, Funk & Rock ‘N Roll”
My grandmother used to listen to The Isley Brothers’ Between the Sheets album when she would clean her room. My mother and aunts were fans of Donna Summers, and my uncle Cory was the biggest funk music fan I’ve ever known. When I saw the trailer for Spinning Gold, I felt a deep connection to what I saw on the screen. These were legendary pioneers of music, and while we know their story, we know nothing about the man that gave those acts the exposure they eventually got. Well, Spinning Gold is about that man, Neil Bogart (Jeremy Jordan), and his vision.
Spinning Gold focuses on the journey that Neil took to eventually create the original and most legendary independent record label to ever exist, Casablanca Records. Neil went through hell and high water to get this label off the ground, and the film follows most of the story. The story of how Neil went from a regular guy to running several different labels and eventually creating his own. Spinning Gold follows his love life as well, and how each of his wives Nancy (Peyton List) and Beth (Michelle Monaghan) inspired him. We see how hard it is to push a label and artist, but also the true beginning of the marketing era in the music industry.
The film starts with Neil already having Casablanca, and trying to use Kiss as the main act. Then we go through a “how we got here” of sorts that shows how he built his eventual kingdom. How Neil started off, and how his gambling led to one of the biggest payoffs of all time. Spinning Gold also shows how some of the most legendary songs were created, and how one of the most iconic funk stars got his spaceship. It may have a few minor missteps but is overall an incredible and inspiring story.
Writer-director Timothy Scott Bogart – son of Neil – obviously wanted to tell this great story about his father and the journey he took to run Casablanca. This is a sort of raw and honest story that some people would be ashamed to tell. With all the success still came controversy and secrets. This was a well-written story because Bogart hid nothing from the audience. These are the type of tales we need when it comes to the music industry. The drugs, sex, adultery, all of it needs to be told, these are the things some storytellers will try to hide. This film did the opposite, and it pays off.
There were a few flaws in the film. Jason Derulo as Ronald Isley was number one, and the visuals were kind of bad. Most of the film is greenscreen and it’s very noticeable. I feel like creating sets to use would have made a better impact, and even people for each concert would have as well. The film also just felt kind of dragged toward the end. The pace is amazing then it just feels like they were dragging it because they could. Other than that there truly isn’t much else negative to say. Save Derulo, the performances in Spinning Gold were simply amazing.
Tayla Parx was an extremely amazing Donna Summers, and Wiz Khalifa as George Clinton was spot on. Casey Likes, Alex Gaskarth, and Sam Nelson Harris are amazing in their portrayal of Kiss, especially Likes as Gene Simmons. Ledisi as Gladys Knight and Pink Sweat$ as Bill Whithers are also really fun in their roles. We have seen some really good portrayals of musical legends in our time, but this film almost hits the nail directly on the head in every way possible. The people who grew up with these artists I’m hoping are very pleased.
Wiz Khalifa was an interesting casting choice in particular. His music is inspired by G-Funk, which was inspired by Funk. He emulates what Dr. Dre and Snoop did in the 90s. His portraying the great George Clinton was more than fitting. Beyond the psychedelic drugs, George was all about making great music that people could enjoy. There are many reasons why the Wiz casting is my favorite, but by far his influence is the main one.
This film focuses on Neil but also is about some of the most legendary music acts ever. It’s such a great story that I would like to see a string of spin-offs about these acts individually with the same cast. It’s been a while since we’ve had such an accurate story from an artist’s standpoint. They definitely mention Barry Gordy and how he treated his Motown acts. The money discrepancy, all of it. Spinning Gold holds no punches and is very honest with itself. It’s really good to see accurate portrayals for once.
My elders grew up in this era, and I listened to this music so much as a kid I have the lyrics memorized. Spinning Gold gave me a connection to a time I enjoy so much. A time when disco and rock music reigned. The disco and funk eras spawned genres of music that we enjoy now, and some of us don’t even realize it. This was by far one of, if not the most influential era of music.
While the film definitely has faults, those faults are overshadowed by what makes it good. Spinning Gold hits all the right notes, and will definitely be on the pedestal for biopics for some time. Jeremy Jordan is incredible and this story was beyond necessary. Betting on yourself and succeeding is incredible, and the way this happened just makes the story all the better. So whether you’re a disco fan, a funk fan, or a rock fan you’ll find something great in this film. The connections are there, and Bogart has made a hell of a film. – Rascal F. Kennedy
Spinning Gold premieres this Friday exclusively in theaters!
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