Saturday, June 03, 2006

SIFF 2006: The King

SIFF is in full swing; last week, we did a late Thursday movie, and then a late Friday movie last night. Then I've got one this evening (unfortunately it conflicts with an Alliterates outing), and Seekrit Festival tomorrow. Wow!

Thursday night was The King, a story about a soldier just discharged from the army who goes to seek his father, who conceived him out of wedlock. Daddy is a Christian preacher in Texas, and he and his family aren't terribly happy that the main character shows up.

Now the newspaper guide (which is all you have to work from when choosing movies) mentions The King is a movie about exploring religion, the relationship with good, and morality. OK, sounds like a setup for an interesting story - conflict of morality makes for a good indie intellectual movie, right?

Well, here's what we got: incest, rape, and murder. So it was a little different than the ads might have suggested. OK, I can deal with that. But was it any good?

It was decent. Pretty good. Good? Great? No.

The movie borrowed from a lot of indie film "noir" conventions, but rather than doing it well (see Brick), it just came out feeling un-original. There were shots stolen almost directly from Blue Velvet, and I'm reasonably certain a few from 21 Grams as well. It took without giving, and committed a cardinal movie sin by (spoiler alert) killing the most interesting character first.

In its defense, The King treated the subject matter of conservative Christians in Texas with far more respect than could be expected from an indie film, and I appreciated that aspect of it. Early in the film there is a discussion about Intelligent Design that the Seattle-based audience snickered at, and even cheered when a decision was made not to teach ID alongside evolution. I sat there thinking a) they don't seem to understand that this isn't made so you could feel superior to these people, it's made so you might be able to understand them better, and b) you're treating this is a joke when there are people - a lot of people - who believe this. In fact, I was more annoyed at the disrespect of the audience than I was with any disrespect from the film itself, which is unusual. Maybe I'm mellowing out more than I thought, or maybe my Okie perspective helps me see things in a different light than those who might not have stepped foot out the blue parts of the Northwest.

It was too bad that the film wasn't better, because with a little more originality it really could have kicked ass.

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