DUBBY’S DVDISCUSSION: The king and his crew
The problem with Americans is they make movies mostly for other Americans. This, despite the fact that often their overseas sales are much higher than their domestic one’s. A case to point is the star-studded All The King’s Men where everyone has an indecipherable Southern American accent, which you have to get past to enjoy the movie. It is also a movie that has universal appeal and tells timeless stories about people who want to do good but are led astray by the very act of trying to do what they promised and how the machine they built to help them turns them into creatures they never wanted to be. It’s about politicians, people, pitfalls and that old cliché of absolute power being the ultimate corrupter.
Based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel written by Robert Penn Warren, it was a loosely veiled portrait of a 30’s Louisiana governor Huey P Long.
All The King’s Men won three Oscars when it was first made in 1949 including Best Picture, which some say is reason enough to never ever make it again. But with a cast headed by Sean Penn, who takes visual tric-ks from Hitler, the latest version of King’s Men was held back in 2005 so it could be shown in 2006 for an Oscar. But the critics hated it and wasn’t a Box Office draw.
But the movie is worth seeing for Penn’s powerhouse performance and the fascinating subject of how and why a politician rises and falls and how even insiders in his campaign know him to be less than perfect, sometimes evil, but are drawn to him. Jude Law is wonderful as the reluctant journalist who becomes Penn’s hit man and doesn’t know why.
Says critic Jeff Shannon, one of the few writers who liked the film, “Sean Penn gives another powerhouse performance in All The King’s Men, leading a topnotch cast in writer-director Steven Zaillian’s film. Zaillian’s film was given stigma of a noble failure. The film still qualifies as a first-class production that resonates with the timeless relevance of Warren’s piercing political classic. Penn is rivetting as Louisiana governor Willie Stark, an upstart political dynamo whose rise to power is ultimately doomed by corruption and betrayal.
Jude Law costars as political reporter Jack Burden, our firsthand witness to Stark’s rise and inevitable fall; his orbit of political insiders includes a corrupt judge (Anthony Hopkins) with a dark secret to hide; a longtime friend (Mark Ruffalo) and former lover (Kate Winslet) who falls victim to Stark’s influence; and political staffers (James Gandolfini, Patricia Clarkson) who remain powerless against Stark’s ill-fated populist juggernaut. At Penn’s request, former child star Jackie Earle Haley (the original Bad News Bears) makes a welcome return to movies as Willie Stark’s quietly intense bodyguard, ‘Sugar-Boy’. Coproduced by Louisiana-born political consultant James Carville, filmed on authentic Louisiana locations and boasting all the stately, luxurious production values of a would-be Oscar contender, All The King’s Men clearly benefits from Penn’s fiery performance and Zaillian’s earnest embrace of Warren’s still-potent subject matter. This is a serious, well-crafted drama with much to say about the insidious potential for fascism in America, especially when well-meaning politicians lose their souls to power.”
The year 2006 was one of films about dysfunctional families and about politics. May 2007 bring variety. Happy viewing.