Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Movie Log: King of California

I haven't seen a movie as stripped down as King of California in a long time; it has two (and only two) major characters, with a third that's important but doesn't get much dialogue, and then a lot of walk-ons. Those two characters are a father and daughter, Charlie and Miranda, living somewhere in suburban California. (If the movie ever gave them a last name or a hometown, I didn't catch it.)

Charlie (Michael Douglas) has just been released from a mental institution as the movie opens, and this leads us to have severe doubts about the efficacy of the California mental health system. To be blunt about it, he's still quite crazy. (In flashbacks throughout the movie, we see that he always was at least a bit cracked, but that he's probably gotten worse as he's gotten older.) He's now obsessed with a treasure that he's sure a Spanish priest hid somewhere in their vicinity in the 1600s, which is just the latest in a long line of things he's been obsessed with.

Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood) is the sensible grown-up in this relationship, despite the fact that she's not even seventeen. But she's been living on her own for the two years that Charlie was in the institution, and clearly taking care of both him and herself for years before that. She at first resists this latest crazy plan of her father's, but, finally, goes along with him and begins to believe in its possibilities.

Netflix defined this as an "indy comedy," which is why I saw it...but that's only true if "indy," as a modifier, means "not primarily funny and without a traditionally happy ending." It's a well-acted movie -- Douglas probably though he had a shot at an Oscar nomination, though I don't recall if he was talked up for it two years ago -- that tells its story well, but it is yet another indy-drama about dysfunctional families trying to make their way in the world. It will be entirely understandable if any particular viewer has had more than enough of that particular style of movie for this decade.

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