king of california (2007)

by zEke

king of california posterIt has been a while since the last time Michael Douglas managed to catch my attention. The last time might have been with his performance in traffic (2000), even though he was just one more among a neverending cast. After that, he has tried to relaunch his career with comedies to forget like the in-laws (2003) and wannabe thrillers like the sentinel (2006). No luck there. And then, out of nowhere, when I had already forgotten about Kirk’s son he steps right onto the independent scene to portray a charming madman turned into a treasure hunter. A treasure hunter that could perfectly be an older and demented version of Jack Colton from romancing the stone (1984) and its sequel.

Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood) is a Californian lonely young girl that has been taking well care of herself ever since his dad, or Charlie (Michael Douglas), as she likes to call him, was admitted in a mental hospital. She is an employee at a fast food restaurant and lives a simple and easy life. She does until Charlie is released and brings home a dream with him. The dream of finding a long lost Spanish treasure that is buried somewhere near their suburban house. Armed with an old Spanish diary, treasure-hunting books, a metal detector, and a shovel, he starts his delusional hunt.

A charming treasure hunting tale in suburban California is what Mike Cahill proposes for his debut as a screenwriter and director. A tale that serves as an excuse to talk at length about an unusual father daughter relationship and insanity. The former is predictable to beginning to end in all its ups and downs but Cahill still manages to depicted it with care. The latter succeeds at keeping you wondering what is going to happen next, it catches your attention the same way it progressively catches Miranda’s. The way Cahill subtly portrays suburban California being explored by two down to Earth Indiana Jones is certainly remarkable.

Most of the charm of the movie leans on Douglas’ performance. He is as comfortable as Charlie as he can be, and the size of his character is only comparable to the size of his eyeballs. Definitely a silent relaunch, but still one. Should he stay there? Rachel Wood is a good counterpoint. At least good enough to the point where she does not feel out of place.

Arguably, the best of the movie is his tone, both melancholic and optimistic. It is curious to me how Cahill manages to turn something essentially similar to national treasure (2004) and turn it into more than a treasure hunting, a journey to ourselves. It sure lacks the action of the former, and, of course the repercussion, but it shines by itself at telling a story with a soul. Furthermore, it becomes easy to buy the extravagance of the series of events. Even the swinger party looked real to me now that I have seen lifestyle (1999).

All in all, a modest little tale that will definitely reach most people’s hearts through the simplicity yet charm of what is told. And is always good to see Douglas back, and in good shape.

For the deadhours of those who let their dreams drive their lives, even if they have to get wet.

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official site | imdb

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dr. plim’s word

Refreshing is the adjective that I find most suiting for this movie.

Michael Douglas (Charlie) is an eccentric father whose clothes are still fresh from the insane asylum’s washing machine at the beginning of the movie. Returning to live with his daughter Evan Rachel Wood (Miranda) who has had to learn to be fully self-sustained, with no help from parents, no boyfriend (no friends), working at the big M, and only 16.

Refreshing in the plot – Miranda is very sweet and beautiful and any director would have thrown some romantic entanglement into the story but you won’t find that here, phew, let’s keep love out of this one, please, thank you.

Refreshing in the characters – Michael Douglas’ crazy and funny character Charlie brings a real cool breeze to the film (he looks especially awesome with a beard and hoodie)! Evan Rachel Wood doesn’t show a flaw as Miranda shows the explosive mix of frustration and love towards Charlie and then annoyance and excitement towards the treasure-hunting plot that slowly unravels.

I also appreciated the cinematography. Nothing out-of-this-world but subtly beautiful (then again, the fact that it’s California may have helped here).

So I definitely give this one the approval and my recommendation. If you want to watch something funny, with good performances, light, and fresh then enjoy king of california!

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