Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Review: All the King's Men

This is a review I wrote for All the King's Men that almost, almost got published by the Prince George's Sentinel (in MD) which is a dinky small paper that wouldn't have paid me much and i don't really like their format much anyway, to be honest, but still they were nice enough to offer me the chance to go out of my way to see the movie and write them a review and send it into them. One interesting thing about this review is that, oddly enough, i didn't like the movie, i was planning on writing about the positives and then the negatives but by the time i got through with the positives, i was out of word space, so i just sent it in.:

Admittingly, the bar is set pretty high to start with for All the King’s Men. For one, a picture that was originally acclaimed to the point of winning a best picture oscar doesn’t really call out to be remade unless it can be enhanced with special effects like this past December’s King Kong. The cast is also populated by a cast overstuffed with Oscar-starved actors who armed with dialect coaches are eager to pounce come awards season. Whether this political drama will actually deliver come January is one that most critics are answering no to and while that’s understandable, the film is certainly worth a look.

The 2006 version of All the King’s Men was adapted for the screen by James Carville, well-known political consultant and former host of CNN’s Crossfire. Carville was inspired to delve into screenwriting out of a love for the 1946 book and wrote the screenplay without so much as a glance of the 1949 screen adaptation. Penned by Robert Penn Warren, the Pullitzer Prize-winning novel is a profound epic and by adapting this story to screen, the film benefits from having a classically-concieved story that’s as rich as few other films today are.

The novel is based on the life of Louisiana governor and champion of the poor Huey Long. The title, in fact, comes from the motto “Every man a King” of Long’s Share the Wealth initiative which he used to redistribute wealth and pull people out of depression. Long was a very curious political figure which the movie to some extent mines with its fictitional protagonist Willie Stark. Played by Sean Penn in a thick accent, Stark comes across as a simpleton with petty desires but has the ability and drive to inspire people with profound sayings such as, “Your will is my strength,” and “You work for me because I am the way I am, and you are the way you are and that’s just an arrangement found in the natural order of things.” However, the core of the film really lies within Jude Law’s Jack Burden, a reporter-turned-right-hand-man for Stark who’s torn between loyalty to Stark’s ideals and his godfather (Anthony Hopkins) and best friend (Ruffalo) who both oppose Stark. Law carries the part ably and through him, the story becomes more of a contemplative study of values and Sothern life reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird or A Time to Kill. If there is one main weakness to the film however, it’s that a lot of the questions of right and wrong, and whether the symbol of an honest politician is a myth, get muddled up through a somewhat confusing plot and a lack of clarity over who’s doing what to whom and why.

All the King’s Men released in the akward buffer between summer blockbusters and the Oscar-caliber season will understandably suffer but is worth seeing.

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