King of California
You see this? This was used, man! This was actually used.

Theatrical Release Date: 09/14/2007
Director: Mike Cahill
Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Michael Douglas

Disguising itself as a quirky comedy in its trailer, “King of California” scratches the surface of being a rather complex and thought-provoking film. Starring the very talented Evan Rachel Wood as the daughter of a mentally unstable father (Michael Douglas), the film follows the pair’s journey towards connecting not only to each other, but to each other’s perspective on the world.

On the verge of turning seventeen, Wood has learned to take care of herself – having no real option otherwise. With her father in a psychiatric institution, she’s quit high school to work double shifts at McDonald’s and remain firmly grounded in the reality that her father has never quite seemed to grasp.

Upon his release, Douglas begins to search for a lost cache of doubloons he read about while indisposed. At first simply placating him, Wood begins to acquire her father’s enthusiasm for the project. She’s intrigued not only by the adventure and prospect of finding the treasure but by the notion that this will enable a meaningful step in their relationship.

Where “King of California” works is in the interplay between Wood and Douglas. Whether it’s her quiet reflections or frustrated outbursts regarding her father’s mental state, Wood once again lights up the screen. She consistently creates characters full of energy and a zeal for life. In this film, she infuses her character with both a sense of wisdom and spontaneity in a balance few actresses of her age can match with such sincerity. It’s easy to see how she is both so self-reliant and so in need of a father figure.

Douglas handles his character capably. This isn’t a particularly iconic role for him, especially in comparison to so many that have come before, but he finds a happy medium between wanting to be the kind of father he never was before and doggedly searching for buried, wealthy history.

My problem with the film isn’t the premise or the acting, as I found both quite interesting. There’s just a missing element of connection between the film and myself that kept the experience from being something more meaningful. It’s like writer/director Mike Cahill had the building blocks for something special but didn’t quite make the best of it.

For every moment where Douglas or Wood begin to delve into deeper into their characters, it’s quickly followed by a new scene or shift in tone. It would have been nice to see Cahill focus more on a few characteristics and themes rather than lightly caress the surface of so much. As such, I can only give “King of California” a 3 out of 5.

It’s a pleasant film, with hints of a deeper story that just never come to fruition. However, fans of either Wood or Douglas will find enjoyment here, should they take the time to catch this on TV/DVD. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to see if there are any lost treasures in my neighborhood.