I have already reviewed The King of Marvin Gardens (1972) but was unfair to the film by claiming that Bob Rafelson‘s direction is derivative of Fellini and Antonioni. I don’t believe it quite is. Rafelson is his own man, one who regrettably settled for a clearly second-rate story idea and script, written by Jacob Brackman, for his art picture.
I still say King is about the tragic unfulfillment of dreams taking place amid fading respectable culture. It’s a culture Jason Stabler (Bruce Dern) sinks his claws into, whereas his brother (Jack Nicholson) is reluctant. But then, he is a frustrated and sometimes dishonest artist of sorts—and sexually restrained to boot. From beginning to end in the film, there is empty-world shabbiness. But also there is too little drama until the last twenty minutes—and even too little poetry so the picture is not much like, say, Antonioni’s Eclipse. It’s just not wholly uninteresting.