What an absolutely great movie.
King of California stars Michael Douglas as a man with some problems. So many, in fact that he’s spent the last couple years in a mental institution. When he’s released he rejoins his daughter, played by Evan Rachel Wood, and tries to once again make himself a part of her life.
But the way he chooses to do that is by enlisting her help (which she gives grudgingly) finding a Spanish treasure he’s convinced is buried somewhere in the area. That somewhere winds up being directly where there now stands a CostCo, something that doesn’t slow him down a bit.
The movie is really about family and loving people for who they are and not who you might wish they were. Time and again Wood’s character finds herself unable, for whatever reason, to control the actions of her father. Sometimes that’s because he’s already done whatever it is he was going to do and sometimes it’s because she can’t bear to see him disappointed and defeated. So she goes along for the ride.
Douglas gives a wonderful, wide-eyed performance that very carefully never slips into caricature. He maintains a frantic energy throughout, always completely selling the audience on his character’s motivations as not being driven by obsession but by the desire to not sit back and accept anything doesn’t want.
The filmmakers deserve special credit for making Wood’s character believable. She plays a 16 year old who’s been fooling various bureaucracies for years in the absence of both her father and mother, the latter of which split when she was very young. She’s simply a bright and capable young girl and not some sort of criminal mastermind. And there’s no clichéd scene with her trying to hide something from a social services worker or anything. Her self-reliance is simply explained and then never again addressed, leaving the audience to accept it for what it is without any more attention being drawn to it.
The movie flows very naturally, without a lot of the usual, tired mile markers that you see in similar movies that are made by people who don’t trust the audience quite as much. That makes it very fresh and new and ultimately very enjoyable.