King of California
nice when Michael Douglas breaks out of the clichéd
"powerful-professional-in-danger-due-to-his-own-weaknesses" mold that he
falls back on a little too easily and regularly.
is nothing regular about King of California. Not that normalcy
is any great shakes, as Charlie – the main character here – would
undoubtedly point out.
playing Charlie as one of his less-common eccentric scruffy roles, complete
with a bushy-Grizzly-Adams beard that looks like a gray porcupine fell
asleep on his face.
the character, storyline and script are so willfully unpredictable that you
want to enjoy King of California more than you actually do. It
is a clever and charming trifle, but there is the slight residue of
squandered opportunity to the proceedings.
California was written and directed by Mike Cahill, a protégée of
Alexander Payne (Sideways, About Schmidt) who shares his mentor's
unusual world view and style. (Payne is one of the film's producers.)
However, somehow it is harder to work up any real passion or empathy for
these damaged and quirky characters and their Quixotic quests than it is in
is simply that these characters have a much more specific goal – one that
may be literally more valuable, but is figuratively colder and much more shallow.
Payne's anti-heroes are on trips of self-discovery. These characters
are looking for lost treasure.
film tries to suggest that they discover themselves through their mutual
adventures – in fact, Charlie insists he is not in it for the money, but
for the experience – but it still feels like a bit of a rationalization.
it seems like Charlie is all about rationalization. As King of
California begins he is being released after two years in a mental
hospital. He returns home to his teenaged daughter Miranda (Evan
Rachel Wood), who has been caring for herself on her own by quitting school
and getting a minimum wage job at McDonalds.
Charlie starts insisting that he has figured out how to find a lost Spanish
treasure from the 1600s, Miranda is torn. She likes seeing Charlie
excited and having a purpose, yet at the same time she knows he is often
delusional and always thoughtlessly self-centered.
Wood is one
of the finest young actresses on the scene and easily holds the screen
against Douglas as confidently as she has with other acting powerhouses like
Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Annette Bening, Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett,
Joan Allen and Edward Norton.
Somehow King of California
kept reminding me of Douglas' better-realized quirky comedy/drama Wonder
Boys – though the movies are really not very alike. Here
the comic moments and relationships don't flow as naturally from the
plotline as they did there.
it's probably unfair to compare King of California to better films
that it followed. This film, in its imperfect way, is entertaining on
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: February 2, 2008.