The King (Thinkfilm, R)

Bernal does his best to give Elvis an overabundance of charisma and passion, but without any explanation for his evil intentions, he comes off as aloof.

 

 

the-king.jpgIf I had to make a laminated list of five actors I would take to a desert island, William Hurt would definitely be on the list. Some of his performances, like those in Broadcast News and The Accidental Tourist, more than make up for those few of his less-than-perfect turns, such as Lost in Space and Dark City. His latest film, The King, is making me rethink whether or not I would want to party with Hurt on my island.

The story follows a young lad named Elvis (Gael García Bernal) who, after leaving the Navy, is on a mission to find his biological father. Somehow, almost magically, Elvis knows that his father, David (William Hurt), is a man of the cloth, and he even knows where his father’s church is located. Showing up at the church, Elvis immediately becomes intertwined with David’s current family. David has a beautiful wife, a demure daughter Malerie (Pell Snow), and a nearly perfectly obedient son Paul (Paul Dano). Elvis, knowing full well what he is doing, becomes romantically involved with his half-sister Malerie, and the rest of the film follows the effect of the love that should have never happened.

The film appears to be a vehicle to get Bernal’s name into the American mainstream. While he is dripping with charisma in every scene he appears, I just didn’t buy his spurious “omnipotent” performance. The writers of the movie, Milo Addica and James Marsh, did a wonderful job in creating a lovable villain with Elvis; but they failed to give the main character an ounce of depth or an interesting backstory. Bernal does his best to give Elvis an overabundance of charisma and passion, but without any explanation for his evil intentions, he comes off as aloof.

Bernal did have some support, with Snow doing a fantastic job as the Christian girl gone bad and Dano as the morally righteous brother. Having personally known several girls like Malerie, I can definitely say that Snow nailed the rebellious preacher’s kid (think Lori Singer in Footloose, without the dancing).

Perhaps the most disappointing presentation was turned in by Hurt himself. I expect great things from great actors, and Hurt seemed to phone in his performance. While his character appeared remorseful for his wicked ways, Hurt played the role a little on the safe side.

While I appreciate films that make you think and don’t force-feed you every minute plot point, this movie suffered from gaping holes between scenes. For example, I was hoping the scene of Elvis jumping up and down on a couch would pay off in the end, but sadly it was just a scene about him jumping up and down on a couch.
For a film crammed full of people too beautiful and talented for their own good, The King falls well short containing too many underdeveloped characters and a plot devoid of any moral footholds.

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