“City of Gold”: The documentary shows Los Angeles food critic Jonathan Gold at work, highlighting his prowess for writing about the not-so-trendy, but excellent restaurants. 3 stars out of 4.
“I can’t tell you how much I love L.A.,” says Jonathan Gold in the documentary “City of Gold.” But he can, and he has, and he continues to do so — his body of writing about that city’s food is one unending love letter. He’s so good at the telling, he won a Pulitzer Prize for it.
While he does write about trendy, spendy spots in places like Venice Beach, reviews of restaurants with reservations and valet parking aren’t what he’s known for. His love letter is to the working-class people who make affordable food in the trucks and the strip malls of Los Angeles’ endless sprawl — “the miracle of entry-level capitalism,” as he puts it. These are often immigrants and children of immigrants, in neighborhoods heretofore unknown to so-called “foodie” culture, making food as good as food gets. Gold calls what he does “celebrating the glorious mosaic of the city.”
“City of Gold” shows him at work, which involves a lot of shots of him driving in his pickup truck, leonine, with a Mobius strip of strip mall in the background. It’s a testament to his prowess that the voice-overs of his writing are riveting; you may want to stop watching and just go read everything in his Los Angeles Times author archive. But the stories of the people whose lives and fortunes his writing has changed draw you back, as do the food-world celebrities singing his praises. While the film’s formula gets repetitive, little revelations peppered throughout keep it engaging. Gold’s the unlikely hero with the golden palate, but his work also involves obsessive scholarship and research, and if you don’t know about his background, surprises await.
Movie Review ★★★
‘City of Gold,’ a documentary directed by Laura Gabbert. 96 minutes. Rated R for some language. Seven Gables.
What “City of Gold” doesn’t address: It took a white guy to show moneyed Los Angeles that stopping at a taco truck with a big line at lunch or a strip-mall spot with a crowded parking lot is not only OK, it’s probably a great idea. It’s the same city, ever-changing and worthy of love, that was there all along.
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