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“King of California”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: Michael Douglas in “King of California,” First Look, 2007]

Michael Douglas won an Oscar for Best Actor in 1988 for his performance in Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street.” Watching his latest film, Mike Cahill’s “King of California,” I got the feeling he’s hungry for another. His character, Charlie, has everything an actor looking to make a big critical splash could want: mental illness, a haunted past, a troubled relationship with a daughter and loud facial hair.

Douglas is good in the part, though I couldn’t help but wonder what his father, Kirk — the best of the best when it comes to playing manic intensity — would have done in his place. He would have brought a bit more to the part, I think, more gravitas and more craziness. The junior Douglas aims instead for comedy, and though he’s quite funny at times, it doesn’t always work with the emotional core that Cahill seems to have in mind.

Charlie’s freshly out of a mental institution and living with his teenage daughter Miranda, played by Evan Rachel Wood. Miranda’s been living on her own ever since Charlie was committed; mature beyond her years, she dropped out of school and survived by working at McDonald’s. Now Charlie’s back, and he’s not too keen on her working there, although he has no interest in getting a job himself. He’s too busy, you see, trying to find a treasure that he believes Spanish settlers buried centuries ago. After much searching, he determines that the treasure is real and it lies beneath a nearby Costco’s nigh-impregnable concrete floor. As you can imagine, Charlie does not take nigh-impregnable for an answer and enlists a less-and-less skeptical Miranda to help him retrieve the gold.

So is the treasure real? Is Charlie on a quixotic quest or is he simply a mad Quixote tilting at windmills? Cahill plays the answer close to his vest. As Charlie follows his leads from one place to the next, he’s presented with sign after sign that the gold isn’t real. But he always manage to come up with an excuse, a reason that this dead end is in fact just another signpost on the road to wealth and a sort of immortality. The finale of Charlie’s quest is subjective enough to allow for an audience’s interpretation, one that will probably vary depending upon a viewer’s own tolerance for wide-eyed romantics.

I admired Cahill’s sly juxtaposition of the California of Charlie’s imagination, one of yellowing maps and shimmering doubloons, and the California of Charlie’s life, which is littered with chain stores and restaurants and where the most exotic wildlife is found on a carefully landscaped golf course. But speaking personally, there’s only so much forced whimsy I can take. Though it seems were meant to ultimately admire Charlie and his dreams, I most felt sorry for Miranda, who has to clean up after her irresponsible father over and over again. So I wouldn’t give Douglas the Oscar. But I’d go see the movie once.

“King of California” opens in limited release on September 14th (official site).

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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