For his electrifying follow-up to the smash success Five Easy Pieces, Bob Rafelson dug even deeper into the crushed dreams of wayward America. Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern play estranged siblings David and Jason, the former a depressive late-night-radio talk show host, the latter an extroverted con man; when Jason drags his younger brother to a dreary Atlantic City and into a real-estate scam, events spiral toward tragedy. The King of Marvin Gardens, also starring a brilliant Ellen Burstyn as Jason’s bitter aging beauty-queen squeeze, is one of the most devastating character studies of the seventies. –The Criterion Collection
Bob Rafelson is a neglected director mainly because he lays bare the myths essential to America. He does not sugarcoat the bitter dose of his satire, as do Coppola and Altman. A distaste on the part of mainstream critics has caused attacks upon, but mostly the neglect of, Rafelson’s The King of Marvin Gardens , which is his most representative film. Head is bound by the conventions of the teenage-comedy genre and shows few marks of Rafelson’s authorship; Stay Hungry is a minor work that sustains his standard theme of the dropout—this time it is a Southern aristocrat who falls into the underworld, which is ambiguously mixed with the business world above. Something of a popular success, Five Easy Pieces certainly demands attention.
Five Easy Pieces was the first expression of the burned-out liberalism that was to become the hallmark of American films of the 1970s. Rafelson’s film expresses the intelligentsia’s dissatisfaction with its impotency in light of an overweening socio… read more
Great script and great starring by Nicholson, Dern and Burstyn... but Julia Anne just crushed it with her plastic creation (smiliar smile every time camera zooms up). Rafelson knew it anyway by the time he was watching dailes and regretted giving her a go. In the end this movie could have been much better without her, but is worth your while anyway.
For all the ‘realism’ of 1970s American cinema, many of the ones I’ve seen have been conventional narrative dramas underneath the gritter cinematographic techniques, to be judge depending on that context than as being real to life. This was extremely tedious and ultimately worthless as a drama for me...that opening monologue on the other does deserve praise away from the rest of it.
Rafelson deserves a little more props these days then he gets. He had a great run in the 70s (though i could say that about a lot of directors and actors couldn't I?) This is probably his best film, which features the most un-Jack Jack Nicholson performance (Runners up: The Passenger, Reds). This film feals like a great novel and gets better every time I see it. This is the most rewatchable sad movie I can think of.
Rafelson attempts to outdo himself by further examining America the way he did in FIVE EASY PIECES, but somehow comes out the other end saying less. Jack Nicholson opens the film with an impressive monologue, but his introverted character is a snoozy presence while he and Bruce Dern's con-man huckster sleepwalk through the Fellini-like setting of a rotting Atlantic City. Boring and full of itself. Looks nice though.