Entertainment Magazine

The King of Marvin Gardens

Posted on the 12 February 2015 by Christopher Saunders
The King of Marvin GardensBob Rafelson followed Five Easy Pieces (1970) with this high-toned oddity. The King of Marvin Gardens (1972) is a fascinating miscalculation, its overbaked flourishes more annoying than artful.
Radio host David Staebler (Jack Nicholson) receives a phone call from his estranged brother Jason (Bruce Dern). Jason invites David to Atlantic City, where he's attracting investors for a Hawaiian resort. Jason runs afoul of cops, crime boss Lewis (Scatman Crothers) and his catty assistants (Ellen Burstyn and Julia Anne Robinson). Fighting his own depression and distrust, David nonethless gets drawn into Jason's scheming.
Rafelson crams Marvin Gardens with vivid imagery, using Atlantic City's decaying boardwalk to great effect. We're given surreal scenes like David and Jason on horseback, a Miss American pageant in an abandoned amphitheater or David's epigrammatic chat with a gangster. These images are too self-contained to amount to anything. When the symbolism isn't obtuse it's crushingly obvious, like David finding a pistol in a drawer full of dildos. It's like a film student copying Luis Bunuel while missing the point.
Rafelson and cowriter Jacob Brackman hinge their drama on the leads' relationship: David the repressed brooder, Jason the uninhibited troublemaker. Their earnest scenes of brotherly bonding and squabbling work marvelously. Too often however, they talk past each other in overripe monologues: indeed, David frequently speaks into a tape recorder, then playing it back endlessly. Sally and Jessica are mother and stepdaughter yet both talk like spoiled six year olds, babbling nonsense while competing for Jason's love.
Presumably Marvin Gardens wants to be a wry commentary on the American Dream, its images of decay and neurotic monologues exposing modern hollowness. But these strands don't connect so much as crash into each other. Distancing yourself from viewers works if you're Brecht or Godard, willing to commit wholeheartedly to the exercise. But Rafelson seems torn between alienating viewers and investing them in his characters, and the mix just doesn't work.
Jack Nicholson seems curiously distant: for all his meaty monologues and heartfelt pinings he's too detached, from costars and viewers alike. Bruce Dern's manic greasiness proves more compelling: this ranks among his best performances. Ellen Burstyn channels energy into her misbegotten role, while Julia Anne Robinson is hopelessly stiff. Scatman Crothers's charming kingpin nearly steals the show: he's straightforward in a way his weirdo costars can't match.
The King of Marvin Gardens reeks of self-conscious pretension. Rafelson pitches plot, imagery and characters at such an abstract level they never connect, an alienation exercise without a worthwhile endgame.

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Mitsubishi A6M3 Reisen (Zero)

    Mitsubishi A6M3 Reisen (Zero)

    @ Camarillo Municipal Airport, CA August 2017 A rare flyable Zero performs a flyby at the Wings Over Camarillo airshow.  This aircraft was recovered from New... Read more

    8 hours, 6 minutes ago by   Htam
    PHOTOGRAPHY, SOCIETY
  • 8 Ways To Instill A Sense Of Purpose In Your Startup

    Ways Instill Sense Purpose Your Startup

    Starting a new venture and thriving in today’s economy is hard, but the best have figured out that customers and employees need to feel that you have a sense... Read more

    8 hours, 37 minutes ago by   Martin Zwilling
    BUSINESS, CAREER
  • Karakoram Summer 2018: Summits on Broad Peak, Missing Climber Found by Drone

    Karakoram Summer 2018: Summits Broad Peak, Missing Climber Found Drone

    While the teams on K2 sit, wait, and watch the weather, things have been progressing in other parts of the Karakoram. In our last update from the end of last... Read more

    9 hours, 7 minutes ago by   Kungfujedi
    OUTDOORS
  • Nordstrom Anniversary Sale: A Second Look

    Nordstrom Anniversary Sale: Second Look

    When I wrote my Nordstrom Anniversary Sale picks post last Thursday I wrote it that day, early in the morning, and it seems during a time when the site was... Read more

    10 hours, 7 minutes ago by   Wardrobeoxygen
    FASHION, SELF EXPRESSION, SHOPPING
  • Salmon with Olive-pistachio Tapenade and Tomatoes

    A foolproof trio loaded with flavor: moist and flavorful salmon dressed up with a juicy olive and crunchy pistachio tapenade. This simple, but elegant, dish... Read more

    10 hours, 57 minutes ago by   Dietdoctor
    DIET & WEIGHT, HEALTH, HEALTHY LIVING, MEDICINE
  • Vintage Avon Lady Beauty Tips 1946

    Vintage Avon Lady Beauty Tips 1946

    Simple beauty advice for the 1940s woman – Vintage-Avon-beauty-Tips-1946—the-elbows Elbow Tips: Keep them from getting rough by massaging Night Cream over them... Read more

    11 hours, 18 minutes ago by   Glamourdaze
    FASHION, LIFESTYLE
  • Top 10 French Albums

    French Albums

    The FIFA World Cup has come to an end with France being crowned World Champions! To mark the occasions we have compiled the Top 10 French albums of all time.... Read more

    12 hours, 39 minutes ago by   Tomatrax
    ENTERTAINMENT, MUSIC

Magazines