There’s a new string of independent films (ThinkFilm being possibly the largest perpetrator) being released that substitute shock for story. Somehow these films attract big names, for example Edward Norton, Evan Rachel Wood and David Morse in ‘Down In The Valley.’ The film I’m going to focus on stars two of my favorite actors, Gael García Bernal (‘The Science of Sleep,’ ‘Babel’) and William Hurt, who deservedly received and Oscar nomination for his ten minutes in David Cronenberg’s ‘A History of Violence’ in 2005. The film is called ‘The King,’ and it’s a mess.
Bernal’s Elvis makes a choice when visited by Malerie’s brother Paul (Paul Dano) that is so unmotivated, so ill-conceived, so wrought with peril that it’s potency is diluted by it’s absurdity. Tragic becomes comic. In spite of Paul, a Christian rocker who tries to introduce intelligent design into the school’s science curriculum, having goals that are less popular in modern day America, writer/director James Marsh has succeeded in creating an empathetic character. This empathy however evaporates in the implausibility of his inevitable demise. What lost me irreversibly was Malerie’s reaction to the incident. But finally, David reappears and wants to know where she’s been.
I mentioned in the intro that García Bernal is one of my favorite actors, and he still is in spite of his stiff, one-note performance in ‘The King.’ It makes me wonder if it’s the director (i.e. Michel Gondry or Alfonso Cuarón) that brings the performance out of him. William Hurt on the other hand transforms himself into Pastor Sandow, he’s terrific in this film. Paul Dano is also excellent, he creates a character that many who see this film will strongly disagree with but he creates a center of empathy in his conviction and blind, maybe even forced allegiance to his father. When we lose Dano, Hurt has is the only one who can carry this shock fest.