If I have to watch another movie about a father trying to fix the relationship between him and his daughter, I’m going to strangle myself. It seems that every other indie dramedy is about this subject. Usually, these movies are quite in your face and clumsily heavy-handed. This is the reason why I tend to avoid them. However, the movie we’re going to be talking about today is different. King of California is a dramedy that’s surprisingly easygoing and charming. It also features a strange treasure hunt that makes the whole thing feel more exciting.
We will be following Charlie, a man who just got out of a mental health institution. He’s obsessed about finding a long-lost Spanish treasure and enlists the help of his daughter while spewing all kinds of other weird theories. Another thing I liked about King of California is the realistic portrayal of the struggling working class. The clash between a young girl trying her best to survive while working at Mcdonald’s and her crazy father who has no interest in this lifestyle was fascinating. We all need to be a little cuckoo to survive the bleak reality of our late-stage capitalism.
Who’s crazier, Charlie thinking he’s going to find some long-lost treasure or Miranda thinking she’s going to make it on that measly salary? And, as the title suggests, the whole movie is taking place in California, a uniquely dreamy place where crazy things happen all the time. And Charlie is definitely a dreamer. I wonder what would this movie be if it was set in Florida. Maybe he would be just another Florida Man. I also wonder if his name is Charlie because he looks like Charles Manson.
Charlie is finally a free man after a couple of years spent in the Santa Clarita Department of Behavioral Health. His daughter Miranda is waiting for him outside the facility as he’s going to live with her for the time being. She’s a smart and resourceful girl working a menial job and struggling to survive. Money is tight but Charlie has a secret that could change everything. While inside he stumbled upon the legend of a long-lost Spanish treasure. And he intends to find it.
King of California would be a barely watchable movie if not for the performances of its two leads. Both Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood were excellent here. Their characters might be familiar but they feel authentic. And on top of all of that, there’s a lot of humor. In fact, there’s so much humor that I was tempted to classify this movie as a straight comedy. It’s also quite short, just ninety minutes which makes it a great choice for those nights when you want to watch something unobtrusive.
Director: Mike Cahill
Writer: Mike Cahill
Cast: Michael Douglas, Evan Rachel Wood, Willis Burks II, Laura Kachergus, Paul Lieber
Fun Facts: The entire filming process took just one month.