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 :

  • Looking for the BEST Copycat Crispy Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies (Part...

    Looking BEST Copycat Crispy Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies (Part Recipes)

    version;YES! I've found you!!!YES! You are the Famous Amos Cookies!!!YIPPEE!!!Please pardon me and my over-reacting ecstatic moments! *nervous chuckle*Am I mad... Read more

    15 hours, 46 minutes ago by   Zoebakeforhappykids
    FOOD & DRINK, RECIPES
  • Jade Eagleson Debut EP Review

    Jade Eagleson Debut Review

    Jade Eagleson gave everyone a Wednesday morning surprise when he released his debut EP. The smalltown Ontario country singer is an emerging star in country... Read more

    The 17 October 2018 by   Phjoshua
    LIFESTYLE, SELF EXPRESSION
  • The Pumpkin Spice Products I’m Buying This Fall

    Autumn is my favorite season and to celebrate I indulge in everything pumpkin spice. l buy the seasonal fall products I’ve come to love, while trying out some... Read more

    The 17 October 2018 by   A Girl In La - Style Blog
    DIARIES, LIFESTYLE
  • Singularity: Jon Hopkins Live Show

    Singularity: Hopkins Live Show

    I do not even remember when I first learned of Jon Hopkins‘ music. Maybe about 4 years ago I discovered his incredible album Immunity that made him a huge name. Read more

    The 17 October 2018 by   Flemmingbo
    CULTURE, PHOTOGRAPHY, TRAVEL
  • Loneliness

    Loneliness

    Most of us are a mixture of extrovert and introvert and I’m no exception. I love getting out and meeting people, chatting and laughing, but, equally, I... Read more

    The 17 October 2018 by   Ashleylister
    BOOKS, CREATIVITY, CULTURE, SELF EXPRESSION
  • Connecting with the Tribe in Annapolis

    Connecting with Tribe Annapolis

    “Drink this. Now.” The Annapolis Boat Show was in full swing, but my friend Nica wasn’t handing me one of Pusser’s famous Painkillers with her demand. She had... Read more

    The 17 October 2018 by   Behan Gifford
    FAMILY, OUTDOORS, SEA, TRAVEL
  • A Quick Note About Voting in the Midterm Election, Part 1

    Voting in the November 6 midterm election has never been more important… or easier! Watch this short instructional video I whipped up, then REGISTER TO VOTE! Yo... Read more

    The 17 October 2018 by   Designerdaddy
    FAMILY, PARENTING

Magazines