Ever hear that saying about the fine line between insanity and genius? Well, King of California is themed around that old statement. It stars Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood.
Douglas plays Charlie, a bipolar patient that after a two year stay at an inpatient psychiatric facility is discharged back into the world. Sufferers of bipolar disease often exhibit grandiose ideas, and poor impulse control (at least in the manic phase). While he may not be a danger to self or others, and hence not need to be in the hospital, let's say that his disease is hardly cured. Shouldering much of the burden is his daughter, Miranda ( played by Wood). With the absence of her father, she had a lot of growing up to do quickly, and supported herself by working double shifts at the local Mickey D's despite being a minor. With her father back on her doorstep, her burden only increases, and the theme of who is really the adult here runs throughout this film.
The plot of King of California focuses on Charlie's latest "big idea" that he came up with while he was in the hospital from their library and the internet. He is hot on the trail to buried Spanish treasure left by a missionary Monk back in the 1600's, a Father Torres. While he has no money, there's no stopping Charlie as he buys a GPS unit, a metal detector, and even rents a backhoe for the big dig. Hot on the trail, the landscape of California has changed a little bit in the last three centuries, and he thinks that the buried treasure is smack dab in the middle of the neighborhood's Costco of all places. With a singularity of purpose, he plunges ahead towards the truth, as pictured in the image below.
The King of California has much going for it. For starters, the acting performances were well done. I don't know if Douglas spent time observing mental patients, but I believed that he was manic for most of the film. The flashbacks, unlike in many films, were also well done, appropriately inserted (with cues to make it obvious it was a flashback), and adds to the depth of the characters, and their unusual father-daughter relationship. The overall plot of chasing down a treasure is also engaging, and kept my attention throughout.
The part where this film stumbles is the end. It kind of feels like a song on the radio turned off midway, rather than ending on a strong major chord. While we do get answers on the treasure, and the veracity of Charlie's delusion, somehow it felt less than satisfying. Even given the lackluster ending, I can still recommend King of California to those looking for something a few magnitudes away from the mundane, and a good character study on bipolar disease.
Overall Grade: B+
Reviewed by Jonas