Spinning Gold reminds us that Donna Summer, Parliament, Gladys Knight, the Isley Brothers, the Village People, and KISS were all music legends of their time and that their legacies have transcended time. But of course, they could not be who they were without a great record label backing them—enter Neil Bogart and Casablanca Records.
Casablanca has been known to be one of the best record companies up until the present, still backing great pop and techno artists like Lindsay Lohan, Tiësto, Martin Solveig and Kungs. Surprisingly, Marvel Studios Captain Marvel’s Brie Larson was signed with them during her early life music career.
Spinning Gold told the biopic story of the company’s heyday in the 1970s when most of those classic legends first signed on. Tony-nominated Jeremy Jordan primarily narrated the film as Neil Bogart (born Neil Scott Bogatz), among other names he changed to while progressing through his life and career—as the film continually reinforced.
Apparently, the film was made by the real sons of Bogart (Tim and Evan) and was made with respect to their father. The writing for it had allegedly begun in 1999, and Justin Timberlake was cast to play Bogart back in 2013, with even Spike Lee directing it. It would have been interesting to see that version of Spinning Gold.
The film recounted Bogart’s life from childhood to death in a non-linear way—probably the best choice for the film based on his career ups and downs. It showed the stories of how he discovered KISS, the Isley Brothers, Bill Withers and Donna Summers—all before their prime. The movie also did a fairly good job showing how much of a gambler and womanizer he was, even the amount of smoking and cocaine he snorted. It did not shy away, which made the film feel authentic versus trying to hide all the bad parts of Bogart’s legacy.
It definitely tried to be a piece of theatrical musical work like Elvis, Rocketman or Bohemian Rhapsody, incorporating many musical moments. While Bogart was a music producer, he was also a solid singer and musician himself. So, Jordan’s Broadway skills were put to full use throughout the whole film.
He had very poignant and intimate moments with Jason Derulo’s Ron Isley, Tayla Parx’s Donna Summer and Casey Likes’ Gene Simmons. The creation of a hit from Summers was an interesting yet tantalizing take on how she and Bogart made the iconic song—Love To Love You.
While Spinning Gold took many gambles to hit gold cinematically, it fell very short for me. From the TV budget-level green screens to the hopeful work of rotoscoping its main characters, everything felt like it under-performed as a film. I got some pretty hard impressions that this was a TV or streaming site show, similar to Disney+’s Welcome To Chippendales or their other biographical series, such as Dopesick or The Dropout.
“While Spinning Gold took many gambles to hit gold cinematically, it fell very short for me.”
The VFX and rotoscoping teams must have been trying their best but boy, oh boy. The backgrounds were a distracting attempt for them trying to show scenes from the 1960s. While I appreciated that they tried to have the characters sell the performances, the music should have helped to distract me from it—but it did not. Do not even get me started on some of the CGI crowds.
I felt like the whole first act was a bit of a weird build-up to get through—some of it was so fast-paced and incoherent with the business and studios side of things. I chalked that up to the fact that Jordan’s Bogart narrating to the camera/audience but not staring at the camera was what I needed time to adapt to.
It was a little jarring and ambitious, but I got the concept the first couple of times it went back and forth across history with him talking to the audience in the present. Spinning Gold also skimmed the introduction of his other executive team members—it could have been great to know why Dan Fogler’s (The Walking Dead) character was the way he was.
While the whole experience was enjoyable in that seeing current artists playing these iconic music artists from the 60s and 70s was fun, it was not enough for me to say it was a great theatrical experience. It was a nice homage to Bogart, especially the incorporation of real interview footage with the real Bogart during the credits. However, I probably would have enjoyed this as a mini-series on Disney+, Netflix or Prime Video—where the more one-on-one interactions of Bogart and the artists could have been more fleshed out.