In Southern California, we live in paradise. You may not realize this, but Jonathan Gold does. On the surface, City of Gold is a documentary about Mr. Gold, the Pulitzer prize winning food critic for the Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly, besides being a one time punk rock cellist. As such, it might make a nice evening’s watch on Netflix, but this is one of those rare documentaries that transcends its subject into a larger reflection of society and the demography of Los Angeles.
Jonathan Gold is the definitive food critic of the greater Los Angeles region. I thought the film’s title was simply a pun on his last name and his relationship with the city. However, the film takes us on a journey with Mr. Gold as the tour guide, and illuminates the treasures around us. We live in a time which may be like no other. The immigrant influx, which began in the 1980s, has matured into a beautiful mosaic of the rich cultures that surround us. Jonathan Gold uses the food, the restaurants, and the owners, families and chefs of these restaurants to show the art, the craft and the richness this immigration has brought us.
This movie is the story of inspiration and the American dream. We are a country of immigrants. These people came here for better opportunities: to earn money, to support their families, to pursue their dreams, or educate their children. Food, cooking and restaurants are the vehicles they used to realize these dreams. They put their children through college and launched them on to their own successes. One lady from Ethiopia worked as a waitress and put her son through school. He is now a doctor, and helped her realize her dream of owning a restaurant.
This movie is also the story of how the passion of one man to share the wonder of the food around us changed the lives of the humble.
Which brings us back to the Netflix thing. I often wait to watch documentaries at home. They work just fine in my living room. While the cinematography of this film is at times uneven, you only notice it because at other times it is magnificent. The impact of the big screen cannot be duplicated at home, and this film deserves to be seen in the theater. You won’t be sorry. Just don’t go hungry.