When young Elvis (Gael Garcia Bernal) is discharged from the Navy, he goes back to Corpus Christi, Texas, to find the man who knew his late mother many years before, and could be his father. He finds the guilt ridden David Sandow (William Hurt) who is now a preacher, with a wife (Laura Harring), a son (Paul Dano) and a daughter Malerie (Pell James). David is reluctant to let Elvis into his life. But he eventually does - with surprising and dramatic consequences; and Elvis falls in love with the 16 year old Malerie, triggering a tragic chain of events.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Moody, often intense and made with a deliberately measured pace, The King is an intriguing but dark psychological drama, sporting a high calibre cast. The screenplay is engaging but it's the performances that lift what otherwise might turn into a soapy melodrama into a genuine exploration of the human condition.
The symbolism is ripe: the father is a preacher, working in the house of God in the town of Corpus Christi (which really exists); Elvis, The King of the title is perhaps an ironic and oblique reference to his preferred music (rock, but not Elvis rock), is the snake in the Corpus Christi (!) garden of Eden, destroying what is partly his. (Or it may be just a dark in joke, since director Marsh once made the doco, The Burger and the King, about Elvis Presley's eating habits. And yes, this Elvis is seen eating a burger in one scene.)
Still, it isn't an entertainment, but Gael Garcia Bernal burns brightly as the young man who so innocently sneaks into the family and plants the seeds of destruction - literally.
William Hurt excels as the preacher with a past, Laura Harring hardly has a couple of lines but we know full well what she is going through, and Pell James is excellent as the 16 year old Malerie, the sacrificial virgin, so to speak.
Biblical rumblings aside, the film is directed with a restrained ferocity; as for example the final sequence in which we see very little but know the terrible things going on, helped along by Max Avery Lichtenstein's musical prodding.
And finally there is the notion of vengeance in the air, but at almost a gothic or hellish level.
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JAMES MARSH INTERVIEW
KING, THE (MA)
CAST: Gael Garcia Bernal, William Hurt, Pell James, Paul Dano, Laura Harring, Milo Addica
PRODUCER: Milo Addica, James Wilson
DIRECTOR: James Marsh
SCRIPT: Milo Addica, James Marsh
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eigil Bryld
EDITOR: Jinx Godfrey
MUSIC: Max Avery Lichtenstein
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sharon Lomofsky
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Jump Street Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 16, 2006