Tuesday, February 12, 2008

King of California

Starring Michael Douglas, Evan Rachel Wood, Directed by: Mike Cahill

Here's another from 34,000 feet in a series of in-flight movies. Coincidentally, before I left for my trip, I was about to put this movie on the Netflix queue.

Set in Santa Clarita, California (shout out to the Old Road!), this strange tale of a father recently released from a mental institution tries to convince his daughter to help him search for lost Spanish treasure buried underneath their local Costco. Wow. There's another one.

The Best Part.
They captured the desperation and soullessness of the valley perfectly and to a tee. From the newly developed cookie-cutter track homes to the clusters of fast=food restaurants and the sleepy, dry dustbowl "in the middle of nowhere" vibe. Very monotonous, tedious and well, nowhere. The setting helped personify the storyline and added another character to the film as well.

The Worst Part
The layers of this movie that I think were intended weren't fully there. It seemed as if there was a forced/calculated effort to follow the current trend of producing a story-driven low budget indie, except this one had a huge hollywood star attached to it. Not a good sign for an indie flick. I've dug Michael Douglas' stuff since "The Streets of San Francisco", so let me be the first to say that he does better on the big screen with big actors and big directors. Otherwise, his strengths won't be best utilized without a strong supporting cast.

Cases in point - "Wall Street", "Traffic", "The Sentinel". He was great in all three, but not every A-lister can pull off a low budget indie. Nor should every A-lister try. The chemistry has to be right in order for it to work, otherwise it seems like the star is just trying to go slummin' to see how the other half lives.

The casting of Michael Douglas just didn't seem to fit the role. He's a great actor, just not in this role (you know...like Tom Hanks in Da Vinci Code). The suspension of disbelief for any movie is key and I just couldn't buy it. Evan Rachel Wood did a great job with the flick and I think it was she that brought the weight of credibility and believability to the table for this one.

So, the concept and potential was there, but the execution wasn't.