In the documentary feature on the King of the Corner DVD, an interviewer asks actor/director Peter Riegert if he ever doesn't get asked about Animal House. Unfortunately, that about sums up the proceedings here. My viewing companions, however, were a little more positive. They agreed that it wasn't a bad movie, of which I am also in agreement. The writing's there, you can tell. There's a fine plot architecture at work here. I forget who my viewing companion compared it to: probably Robert Altman. Short Cuts lite, perhaps. Me, I couldn't help but think fondly of Grand Canyon. Both ensemble pieces with an ensemble cast to boot, and King partly takes place close to the Grand Canyon.
Of course, I'm a tad pickier about such things. In an interview with Spike Jonze, somebody asked the Coen brothers if No Country for Old Men was all filmed with one lens. After a while into King, I couldn't help but think that. NCFOM at least had one telephoto shot of that wounded dog walking away. King isn't as deft at hiding its lack of lens variety, or rather, has too monotonous a visual schema. Riegert picked the one fish-eye lens and pretty much stuck with it the whole time.
As for the plot, well, I guess Ebert has it nailed down pretty well. To quote the man himself, "It's like life: just one d@mned thing after another." I only mention it because it's on the DVD cover, and Riegert also points to it in the documentary on the DVD. So, why not me, too? Nothing too intolerable happens to the Riegert character during the hour and a half, but he seems to move from one punchline to the next. Oh, God, I just hate that. SPOILER ALERT: I only mention it because one of my viewing companions cringed at this scene. So, Riegert meets the girl he went to high school with. They go to his hotel room and get to know each other in the Biblical sense. Problem one right there. Then, Riegert goes to the girl's house and gets decked by her husband. Problem two. But, then again, in this internet age, maybe the fantasy has indeed gotten that upgrade. It's not enough anymore to do the nasty with the pretty girl you went to high school with. Telling her husband about it and getting decked by him? Priceless. Even Daniel Goleman himself must've gotten a smile out of that scene.
Finally, one last shout out to my friend who just HATES it whenever they make a reference to the movie's title in the movie. Especially that damned Barton Fink, but we'll get to that later. King of the Corner is no exception, but not bad considering that its original title was The Pursuit of Happiness. There's only one The Pursuit of Happyness, and that's the one with Will Smith, DAMN IT! But this did come out 4 years before that one, so we'll let that slide for now. SPOILER ALERT: Where the title does get spoken in the movie is during the funeral, where Riegert remembers that 'King of the Corner' was a game that he and his father would play. Peter gets choked up over it and everything! They snuck it past me, or maybe I'm just getting old and less vigilant as the years march on. Which is what this film's all about, damn it. The years are marching on, youth slips away, and the next generation is out to replace you, so you better make sure you have something you can use to blackmail the boss with. A little more room for American Exceptionalism in there than in, say, Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. I mean, "Try to be nice to people; avoid eating fat; read a good book now and again; get some walking in; and try to live in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations"? What's the point of that?
...maybe a little Corsican Brothers-type dynamic at work. See, at first, Riegert's character was indifferent to his father's passing. But when he saw that Eric Bogosian's hipster priest character ALSO didn't care, Riegert got all choked up. Sorry... SPOILER ALERT.
Well, this is the only image it's going to give me, apparently, so the FBI warning it is. It's purple! Sorry, no access to the TV, so I can't take a photo of the screen. We can still get away with that.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan