Review: ‘Goldie,’ starring Slick Woods

February 21, 2020

by Carla Hay

Slick Woods in “Goldie” (Photo courtesy of Film Movement)

“Goldie”

Directed by Sam De Jong

Culture Representation: Set in the tough streets of New York City’s Bronx borough, this suspenseful drama has a predominantly African American cast of characters representing the poor and middle class.

Culture Clash: An 18-year-old aspiring dancer, who’s fixated on getting a yellow coat to wear in a music video, finds herself unexpectedly taking care of her underage sisters while trying to hide from child welfare authorities.

Culture Audience: This movie will appeal mostly to people interested in stories about urban street life, from the perspective of African American characters.

Slick Woods in "Goldie"
Slick Woods in “Goldie” (Photo courtesy of Film Movement)

“Goldie” takes viewers on a frenetic ride over a few days in the life of sassy aspiring dancer Goldie (played by Slick Woods, in a charismatic feature-film debut), an 18-year-old who lives in New York City’s Bronx borough. Goldie unexpectedly finds herself taking care of her underage younger sisters while trying to dodge Child Protective Services. Along the way, she learns things about herself and what she really wants out of life.

In the beginning of the movie, Goldie’s only preoccupation seems to be figuring out a way to get her big break as a dancer. She’s seen running through the streets to get to New Hope Community Center, where she performs a hip-hop dance routine for an audience of mostly underage kids and their parents. She then calls her 12-year-old sister Supreme (Jazmyn C. Dorsey) up on stage, so Supreme can play the drums in a separate performance, which ends when Goldie and another girl dance on stage with Supreme. It looks like a carefree moment, but Goldie’s life at home isn’t so happy-go-lucky.

Goldie lives in a shelter, where she shares one room with her single mother, Carol played by (Marsha Stephanie Blake); Carol’s drug-dealing boyfriend Frank (played by Danny Hoch); and Goldie’s half-sisters Supreme and  8-year-old Sherrie (played by Alanna Renee Tyler-Tompkins). It all sounds like it’s going to be one of those typical “urban ghetto” stories that have been told too many times before.

However, writer/director Sam De Jong (who happens to be Dutch) infuses the movie with a lot of visual elements that work well by striking a balance between making the movie gritty yet occasionally whimsical. For example, in some of the scenes, a graffiti-like colorful palette surrounds the people in the movie, giving the impression that they are a living urban mural.

And when a new character is introduced, we hear the voice of Sherrie or Supreme saying the character’s name, as an artsy urban graphic appears showing the name on the screen. It’s because of these unique touches that “Goldie” doesn’t completely fall into a lot of the clichés about African Americans who are involved in “street life.”

The movie is also more than a coming-of-age story. It’s a chase movie with a twist: Instead of trying to escape from the police or criminals (which is the usual story in “urban” movies), the protagonist is trying to keep her family together by trying to escape from Child Protective Services.

Unfortunately, one negative stereotype that “Goldie” keeps perpetuating is the idea that young African Americans are always committing crimes. Goldie and most of the people in her social circle break the law on a regular basis, not necessarily for survival but just for the hell of it. And for most of the story, she’s in materialistic pursuit of getting enough money to buy a long canary-yellow faux-fur coat that she’s convinced will be her lucky charm if she can get to wear it in a music video.

The music video that she hopes will be her big break is for a local rapper named Tiny (played by real-life hop-hop star A$AP Ferg), who’s had some success on the charts, and he’s planning to film his next music video that weekend. Goldie meets with an acquaintance named Jay (played by Khris Davis), who has the connections to recommend Goldie to be a dancer in the video. Jay says that he’ll think about recommending her if she can film an audition video. If he likes what he sees, he says that he can pass it along to the right people.

Just when she’s planning on which outfit to buy for her audition, Goldie gets fired from her job at a discount clothing store because of chronic tardiness. She refuses to leave her boss’ office after she gets fired, so he calls security on her, and they literally have to throw her out.

When she passes by the store with the yellow coat in the display window,  and she asks the owner to try on the coat. He says she can only try it on if she shows that she has the money to buy it. The store owner’s excuse is that because the coat is in the display window, he can’t let just anyone try it on.

Here’s where the negative stereotypes start for Goldie: She shoplifts a skimpy gold outfit that looks like a combination one-piece bathing suit and jumper, because she thinks she needs to dress like a video vixen to get noticed in the audition video. On the one hand, it’s realistic to show that young women are expected to dress this way in rap videos. On the other hand, it’s kind of disappointing that the movie made Goldie a thief to get a cheap-looking, sleazy outfit. With the help of Supreme, Goldie films her audition using her phone and wearing the outfit.

Meanwhile, back at home, Goldie gets upset with Frank because he’s doing drug deals out of their room while her younger sisters are nearby. She scolds Frank and her mother by saying that she doesn’t want Supreme and Sherrie to see any of the drug deals. Goldie’s conflict with Frank escalates when he says that $300 of his is missing, and he accuses Goldie of stealing the money. She denies it, and they end up in a physical fight with Goldie spraying Frank in the face with hot pink spray paint.

Things go from bad to worse for Goldie when her mother is arrested for reasons that are not stated in the movie. The police, who have a warrant, arrest Carol at the shelter. Goldie doesn’t stick around for Child Protective Services to show up, because she figures that Supreme and Sherrie will be separated. Goldie takes off with her sisters and then begins a desperate search for a place to hide until they can find out what will happen to their mother.

Before Goldie runs away from the shelter with the girls, she grabs a bunch of items, including her mother’s prescription pills (about 150), with the intent to sell the pills. Even in this dire situation, Goldie still has it in her head that she wants to be in Tiny’s music video that weekend, so her scheme to raise money isn’t just for food and shelter but so she can also buy that yellow coat.

This strange dichotomy shows how brash and illogical teenagers can be when they’re not fully mature enough to make responsible choices and think about long-term consequences. On the one hand, Goldie has a certain level of street smarts. On the other hand, Goldie is very naïve about how the music business works, because she doesn’t seem to know that being a dancer in a music video for a C-list rapper isn’t going to solve her money problems. There are minimum wage jobs that pay more than being what amounts to a glorified extra in a low-budget music video.

As she races from place to place, Goldie is looking for someone to buy her pills and give her somewhere to stay. The people she asks for help react in different ways.

One is a woman named Janet (played by Edwina Findley Dickerson), who’s close to Carol’s age and lives by herself in a house. Another is Goldie’s friend Elijah, nicknamed Eli (played by George Sample III), who doesn’t want to get too involved because he’s out on parole and doesn’t want to be arrested again.

She also turns to a drug dealer named Jose (played by Jose Fernandez), who is Goldie’s occasional lover, to see if he’ll buy the pills. And she also tries to sell the pills to her former co-worker enemy Princess (played by Angela Griszell), who has a long blonde wig that Goldie ends up stealing because she wants to wear it for the music video shoot.

And as a last resort, Goldie goes to her estranged biological father Richard, (played by Gbenga Akinnagbe), who works for the U.S. Postal Service and has started a new family with another woman. Because the movie’s cast is a mixture of professional actors and non-professional actors who live in the area where the movie was filmed, there’s an authenticity to these characters that probably wouldn’t be there if only experienced actors were in the cast.

On the surface, it might seem silly that Goldie is so focused on getting enough money for a coat, while her life is falling apart with bigger problems. But a closer look at how she’s acting shows that it’s really not about the coat, but what it symbolizes—her best shot at being discovered as a dancer so she can pursue her dream career that she hopes will be the path to a much better life. What she discovers at the end of the story is what kind of person she wants to be in order to pursue that dream.

Film Movement released “Goldie” in select U.S. cinemas and on VOD on February 21, 2020.