Monday, 4 March 2013

The King of Marvin Gardens.

Brother's David and Jason Staebler.
Bob Rafelson followed up one of his best films, Five Easy Pieces (1970) with another collaboration with Jack Nicholson The King of Marvin Gardens (1972). This film that has just been restored prior to a UK cinema re-release, obviously the studio think it’s time to reappraise ‘one of the great undervalued films of 1970’s American cinema[1]’ But I’m afraid no amount of restoration can improve the films tediously pretentious story line. It attempts to tackle similar themes to his previous movie including dysfunctional families and that sense of disillusionment that seemed to exist at the turn of that century.

Sally and her stepdaughter Jessica. 

Set in a bleak decaying out of season Atlantic City. Nicholson plays one of two brothers David Staebler a rather aloof, depressed late night radio presenter. His loud-mouthed brother Jason (Bruce Dern), a con man that’s always chasing that elusive get rich quick scheme, invites David to join him on a real estate scam. The party also includes two women that accompany Jason on his criminal endeavours. The older of the two is Sally (Ellen Burstyn), the younger one is Sally’s stepdaughter Jessica (Julia Anne Robinson). The two have a strange relationship with each other and Jason. In one scene we find the two women topless in a hotel room having a water pistol fight in which Jason is invited but David excluded!  Even the talented actors on show can’t rescue this gloomy dull movie from the dreary tedium that its non-story evokes. I think Rafelson meant it as a metaphor for a decaying America, but in my opinion he didn’t succeed!

[1] Promotional notes for the 2013 Glasgow Film Festival

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