Friday, May 14, 2010

"King of California" (2007) - Movie Review

Charlie (Michael Douglas) is worried about his existence but he is a man without the awareness of other’s existence around him. One such would be his daughter Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood) who has grown up without his help, especially in the past couple of years where he spent his time in a psychiatric facility. He has one goal after he came out which is to find a treasure. He firmly believes that it is buried underneath these suburbs of California and he is persuaded that he has decoded it out of an ancient Spanish explorer’s journal. In this film by writer/director Mike Cahill makes an independent film to get star cast.

Cahill provides little to no history on this father-daughter relationship but covers great regions to something witty at right spots between them. It is sometime unbelievable that Miranda has given up emotionally on her dad in these two years. Charlie though is capable of emptying that trust. For starters he has a bushy beard. No one can trust an old man buried in beards and has wicked smile with wide opened eyes. Adding the treasure hunt makes it easier for Miranda to give up on him. But this is not the first time he has found unique ways to disappoint her.

Charlie is not the kind of person that exist only in his own world and forget his surroundings. That is the beauty and comic factor in Michael Douglas’ performance which is that he very well knows the people and place around him. When he discovers that the treasure’s possible location is somewhere in the big store of Costco, he does not hesitate to place surveying equipment in the middle of clothes section and walk through eagerly following the measuring tape pointing to the target spot. After cornering a spot, he tells with excitement and frustration that of all the places this great treasure resides on the foot of Costco. He is a man knowing what he is doing, just that it is far beyond anyone could fathom about.

As Charlie steps up on his search of this mythical existence of treasure, Miranda is lured in. She has kept herself to the life she is leading by working long hours at McDonalds and keeping everything to herself. She does not have friends and the only dear thing she loves is the car she managed to buy with her hard earned money. She likes this way of life wherein she has grown responsible to take care of herself at the age when school matters the most. She is an example of a generation settling for simple jobs to run a meager life than an ambition.

For sometime now I have explained the irony in the formula coming up in the independent films. As any genre which has become a formula in this long tenure of film making, independent genre is fairly recent and hence it is getting into that mode of cruise control. Being a formula does not mean being unoriginal or a bad movie. Many of those run down genre has succeeded employing those cliches and predictability with some very good writing and some performances to believe in those writing. “King of California” is one such.

This is not to say that the film takes on its known route. It is indeed quite unpredictable when the clues Charlie leads on becomes more real as he gets closer and closer to his goal. The predictable factor is the bond that gets developed between Charlie and Miranda. People viewing this film are no naive personalities to expect a thrill ride of protagonist’s delusional treasure hunt. This is a character development and how they develop together into these two distanced people getting pulled in by this unbelievable hunt becomes this film. In Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood we see those people and begin to believe in them coming together and be that father and daughter.

Mike Cahill takes baby steps in his debut and puts up a firm foot with some good acting and light punctuated writing. We are swept away without the feeling of being dragged on into this ride. There is a pay off we can take ourselves out of this gold rush aim, Charlie pursues with Miranda. This is that kind of film wherein they can make death sweeter and tragedy a little more lighter. It is not dark comedy but an acceptable independent genre tragedy we come to find peace.

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