Gael Garcia Bernal and William Hurt both give stellar acting performances in this drama. I only gave this movie 2 1/2 starts, however, because it *just ended.* In the last scene, I felt I was waiting for the climax of the movie, and all of a sudden the credits rolled. I felt like the ending was missing. I also felt that the last 15 or so minutes of the movie were rushed compared the the rest of the movie, and felt that more time and detail should have been given in the last chapter of the movie.
The King - A Gritty, contemporary drama
Eddie Lancekick | Pacific Northwest | 10/19/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Compelling in style and rich in character detail, "The King" is sometimes a poor mans "American Beauty". It centers on Elvis, a young man recently discharged from the Navy. Elvis starts making his way back into the world and its quickly determined he's pretty much all-alone in doing so. He buys an old car, shacks up in a budget motel, and then makes his journey for what he is looking for.
He quickly finds that, as he is looking for his biological father that he has never met. What he does not bank on is the fact the man is married, has a family, and is an evalengical type minister who of course, strayed back in his day. Stoic in stature is this man, played by William Hurt. He quickly lets Elvis know that he wants nothing to do with him. There is only one problem: Elvis has already started flirting with the mans daughter (yes, that would make them "half" brother and sis...stay with me here) who is unaware of what Elvis and her fathers conversation entailed the day Elvis came to town. Elvis gets a job as a pizza deliveryman and continues to strive to win the heart of the girl, whose name is Malerie. Things start to escalate when Malerie's brother confronts Elvis and demands he stop seeing his sister. The film has a gritty cinematic appeal as it shows you a long established social landscape based in Corpus Christi, Texas. Hot days and roads that stretch on forever dot the horizon while in the foreground you have the irony of the beloved preacher whose message of the lord starts sounding shaky as his past unravels. Don't think for a second that last sentence is what this movie is about though, various themes of family, trust, and betrayal are all woven in nicely. The character of Elvis (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) is sinister in simplicity as his quiet, seemingly polite demeanor slowly gives way to a much darker side, which continues to a brutal climax involving him and Malerie's brother.
Follow Elvis as he goes from Sailor to Seducer. Pell James does an excellent portrayal of Malerie, who is not your typical angst-ridden and rebellious "preachers daughter" but a soft spoken and sweet girl who, although naive, tries to gain strength throughout the film to deal with the situations that confront her. The film does not quite have the action that the trailers purport, but overall its never predictable and we recognize a lot of the humanity and irony that the actors bring to life in this story."
"You're not as talented as the Lord, and he's listening."
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 10/12/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This dark and unsettling allegory, which mixes very bad behavior with Christian evangelism, features two very fine performances from its leads Gael GarcÍa Bernal and William Hurt, but this tale of the prodigal son returning to his roots never really picks up steam beyond it's initial exposition. Consequently, we have a film that features a potentially great story, but for the most part, is too stultifyingly slow-paced to really make that much of an impact.
We first meet Elvis (Bernal), a twenty-something drifter, who has just been released from the navy. He arrives in Corpus Christi, Texas, hopefully seeking to reconnect with his estranged father (Hurt) who unknowingly fathered him. It turns out that his father is now an evangelical pastor with a nice family and predictably, and although he's civil to Elvis, he wants nothing to do with his illegitimate son.
Dejected, Elvis stays on in the City, rooming in a run-down, crummy hotel and obtaining employment as a pizza delivery boy. But some unstoppable, Machiavellian force begins to drive the young man and he begins to exact revenge on the pastor, starting by seducing his daughter a beautiful 16-year-old (Pell James) in all her Catholic innocent glory. Keep in mind he is seducing his half-sister.
But this seduction is nothing compared to Elvis has in store for the holy man's other geek son Paul (Paul Dano), a gawky teenage Christian rock singer and campaigner for intelligent design. Is Elvis just a mild-mannered, untroubled sociopath who is picking on an innocent family? Or is there perhaps more substance behind his motivations?
Director James Marsh has some good ideas here, embedding his main protagonist with a Ripley-like amoral sensibility, yet what he's eventually trying to say is never quite clear. Perhaps he's juxtaposed the fine line existing between redemption and damnation and he certainly throws in some interesting ideas, strong characterizations, and a couple of sensational twists.
However, he obscures these aspects with muddled and too slowly paced directing and a surprisingly vapid central character - a bit of a Johnny one note - that even the talented García Bernal cannot overcome. The story is indeed rich and troubling - and somewhat provocative - but the director's choices about what scenes to reveal and what to leave ambiguous feel a bit arbitrary to say the least, and the ending especially feels a bit flat and perfunctory and not as profound as it should have been.
Still, Hurt and Bernal make this unfocused film watchable. Hurt's faith has a rugged intensity, and it's a good bet he's more arrogant than your own pastor. Yet the actor also stays away from portraying him as the devilish fire-and-brimstone preacher, the stereotype that the character could have so easily fallen into.
Bernal in his quiet way is as charming and as sensual as ever - his looks lend themselves well to this kind of role. But the character of Elvis just lacks the emotional gravitas and weight that say the terrific Ed Norton bought to his disconsolate transient cowboy in Down in the Valley, a much better film that The King bears a remarkable similarity to. Mike Leonard October 06. "
A Different Look At Family Troubles
Timothy Kearney | Hull, MA United States | 11/15/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you read the summary of THE KING I read before viewing it, you probably expected a heartwarming tale. A young man named Elvis finishes his stint in the Navy and decides to look up his father who abandoned him. The father has since changed his life, married, started a family, and is now a minister. Such a summary promises a conflict or two, but also redemption. Well, I don't want to spoil the experience for potential viewers, but let's just say that when it's on television, it won't be shown on the Hallmark Channel or the Family Channel. It's not a uplifting tale of sin and redemption, but it's still interesting to watch.
The film has its weaknesses, but it also has strengths that make it a gripping tale. Gael Garcia Bernal plays Elvis, the young man in search of his father. He's almost emotionless in the role, but this is intentional. If he pushed for the sympathy vote as the abandoned child or went the psychopath route, the film would be too unbelievable. Bernal keeps us interested in what Elvis' next move will be, and we wonder what is going on in his head but we're never certain. William Hurt plays David Sandow, the minister and family man who is also Elvis' father. Paul Dano of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE fame is the oldest son Paul, the apple of his father's eye who will soon graduate from high school and head to Bible college. Both Hurt and Dano work with the material, but one fault of the film is that we're introduced to some potentially wonderful conflictual situations between father and son (Paul), first son (Elvis) and beloved son (Paul), and conflict between the three, but they never materialize. The most troubling relationship in the film is that of Elvis and Malerie, the Sandow daughter. Malerie is a main character and some central situations revolve around her, but she's also the most fully developed character of the film. Pell James plays the young woman with sympathy and we believe she is conflicted, a young woman who is beginning to realize she's bigger than the life she's living but isn't ready to abandon it just yet.
For me, the best way to describe this film is interesting. It did not have enough conflict to make it engrossing, but it is well acted and the setting make us feel as if we're in the middle of the Bible Belt. I'm not sure if it's a watch again and again type of film, but still it's worthwhile and certainly makes the viewer think. "
bob lundy | San Mateo CA | 10/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The hottest new young actor out there, Gael Garcia Bernal, has once again expanded his range. In The King he brings to life a recently discharged servicemanr's plight when he tries to connect with what distant roots he has left. He visits the church where his father, who he has never met, preaches. He is looking for the home he feels he has missed. When he confronts his father, William Hurt, he finds no acceptance only a cautious warning. Hurt, who is now a respected member of the community and family man with a teenage son and daughter, has extreme apprehension about this son he admits to but has every intention of casting out.
What we soon find out is every action has a catastrophically ironic result. If only we knew what was to come we would have never have made that move but that's hindsight.
The King is excellent in every aspect. All principle acting is superb with Bernal and Pell James being standouts. I loved the music which maintained the sober tone that permeated the entire film. Beautiful cinematography and editing helped the compelling nature of the script. This is a perfectly executed, disturbing adult drama. Not for all tastes but packs a quite a wallop. Highly recommended."
Ambitious, But From From Perfect
Joshua Miller | Coeur d'Alene,ID | 10/19/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The King" is a haunting film from the studio that brought us "Down in the Valley" and features Gael Garcia Bernal ('Dot the I') and Oscar Winner William Hurt ('Kiss of the Spider Woman'). "The King" came and went pretty quietly. It got O.K. reviews (although Richard Roeper said that Hurt's performance was one of the best performances you'd see...Odd, since it's far from Hurts best) and slipped quietly onto DVD. It looked promising enough. The cover says "Disturbing" and the premice of the film sounded interesting. It's definitely a weird little movie. Bernal plays Elvis, a young man who is discharged from the Navy and heads to Texas to meet his father David (Hurt, covering up his trademark voice with a Texan accent). David is a pastor and is a borderline "fire & brimstone" kind of guy. He's married now to a woman named Tyla (Laura Harring) and has two kids Malerie (Pell James) and Paul (Paul Dano, 'Little Miss Sunshine'). David feels that Elvis was the product of past sinning and therefore, wants nothing to do with the boy. Elvis kind of moves on, but finds himself falling in love with Malerie. Even though we know it's, technically, incest. It's never really mentioned in the film. After Paul discovers that Elvis has been hanging around with his sister, he threatens to tell David and Elvis kills him. It's quick, shocking, and unexpected. Elvis quickly does what every movie character does; He ditches the body. As David searches for his "lost" son Paul and Malerie finds out that she's pregnant, David finds himself coming to terms with Elvis. The movie eventually throws a curveball and then ends abruptly. I didn't like the ending immediately, thinking "that was cheap." The ending works really well, I think the final line of dialogue sums up the movie pretty well. I've only seen Bernal in one other film, but he's very good here. Other actors could've played this role better, he left some gray areas...But other than that, he's really good. As for Hurt, he's fantastic. As I said, it's not his best performance but it's really good. He gives an Oscar worthy performance, but will probably be forgotten come Oscar time because of how low-key this film was. The movie is a little bit haunting (especially the ending), but I didn't find it disturbing. If you found movies like "Rivers Edge" or "American Beauty" disturbing, you might find this movie disturbing...But, I don't know. I didn't feel disturbed. It's not a masterpiece, but it was worth the watch.