Written & Directed by Mike Cahill
Starring: Michael Douglas, Evan Rachel Wood
DVD Release Date: 29 January 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Some Strong Language, Mature Thematic Elements and Brief Drug References)
List Price: $14.98
Bipolar malcontent Charlie (Douglas) has spent two years in a mental facility where he began investigating the lost treasure of a 17th century Spanish missionary. Upon his release, he recruits his precocious daughter Miranda (Wood) to help him find it in modern day suburbia. She has spent the last two years juggling child care services, the state welfare department, her mother and a foster family, so that everyone thought she was under the supervision of someone else. Instead, she has dropped out of school and taken a job at McDonald's to hold together her father's home. Think Big Fish, but much less fantastical.
You get the obligatory trailer, a montage of outtakes and a commentary track featuring writer/director Cahill and assorted crew members. The absence of actors Douglas and Wood is felt. Given the challenging nature of their roles, it would have been nice to hear some insights into how they brought life to Cahill's characters. In the interest of full disclosure, I should confess to having fallen asleep during the commentary track; I'll try to give it another listen before returning it to Netflix.
At 93 minutes, King of California doesn't overstay its welcome and yet it is somewhat ephemeral. We know that Charlie is bipolar and we see his up-side, but we never really see his downside (save for a flashback of Miranda rescuing him from a botched suicide attempt). As it stands, Charlie comes off more as having adult attention deficit disorder than being bipolar. Regardless, at its heart this is a story of a father/daughter relationship in which the youth is compelled to take the abdicated reigns of maturity. Too many families might recognize themselves amongst this theme, and Evan Rachel Wood carries the film as the burdened Miranda.