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Saw this years ago in 1994, but I still remember vividly the musical
score, especially at that searing moment when Jeroen Krabbe gets into
his car, talks to his son on the street and tells him a story. The
music soars as the boy's eyes widen, realizing his father's not coming
back, because the story being told is far too affectionate not to mean
his dad's about to leave. I remember the shots exactly, and these kind
of moments are why I love film.
Steven, stop making crime thrillers for a little while. Get back to
what you were looking for in this movie. We could use a little more of
This under-rated gem comes from Steven Soderbergh's
"wilderness" years. A solid, well-made film, "King of the Hill" has
none of the splash that charaterizes most of S.S.'s other work; no
kinky plot twists, narrative tricks, or dazzling camera work here.
What this film does offer is a deeply felt portrait of realistic people
in realistic situations, which itself is more than you'll get from most
films these days. Don't expect to be dazzled or swept off your feet
by "King of the Hill;" but don't be surprised if you find yourself
thinking about the poor protagonist and his richly rendered life and
times for days after you see the film.
P.S. Don't miss music star Lauryn Hill as an elevator operator.
In the 1933 Depression, Aaron (an impossibly young Jesse Bradford) is
left all alone after his brother is sent away, his mother put in a
sanitarium and his father has to leave to work for money. We see what
the Depression was REALLY like through young Aaron's eyes. Too often
the 1930s are romanticized...but not here!
It is grim and powerful but there's also some very funny moments and a GREAT happy ending that was (more or less) believable. I read and studied the Depression in school and this movie got everything right--especially about the hell people went through. Also it looks fantastic! They got the cars, clothes, houses and everything right on target. This movie also has an incredible cast. Jeroen Krabbe (faking an American accent pretty well), Lisa Eichorn, Spaulding Grey, Karen Allen and Elizabeth McGovern all have small roles but are great in them, but it's Bradford who holds the film together. He was only 14 when he did this and he's GREAT! He anchors the film and is believable every step of the way. Also look for an unknown Katherine Heigl and future Oscar winner Adien Brody in small roles. This was a hard movie to market and the studio didn't even try. It died pretty quickly. I only caught it by accident on cable and was blown away by how good it is. This is an excellent film and easily one of the best film of the 1990s. A definite must see!
It's 1933 St. Louis. Aaron Kurlander (Jesse Bradford) is an imaginative
kid in Miss Mathey (Karen Allen)'s class. Christina Sebastian
(Katherine Heigl) is the pretty girl in class. He befriends rich
classmate Billy Thompson and puts up a front about his family. His
friend Lester (Adrien Brody) gets him a job as a caddy. Ella McShane
(Amber Benson) is a shy neighbor who likes him and suffers from
seizures. Patrolman Burns is the corrupt cruel traffic cop. Doorman Ben
uses Aaron to deliver booze to Mr. Mungo (Spalding Gray) who spends
time with call girl Lydia (Elizabeth McGovern). His little brother
Sullivan is sent to live with their uncle. His mother (Lisa Eichhorn)
goes back to the sanatorium for tuberculosis. His domineering father
(Jeroen Krabbé) leaves for a job to sell watches. He is left alone
having to survive with only his wits.
This is an interesting place that Steven Soderbergh has brought the audience to. The many side characters are all great. There are so many of them that the movie relies a lot on its young star to keep it together. Jesse Bradford is a competent child actor and he keeps the character compelling. It's a really tough job and it would have been great for him to have a companion best friend. Adrien Brody is the closest character and should have more screen time. I also would like it to take on a darker tone. This reminds me a bit of Barton Fink and it would be great to have more of that tone.
When Olympic judges rate a performance, they look for flaws and deduct accordingly.
When beauty contest judges look at a pretty girl, they do not look at what works, they look at what doesn't.
Same with film reviews.
I watched mesmerized. One of the most perfect films I have ever seen. Perfect casting, action, direction, writing, pacing, music.
Possibly one of the most perfect films ever.
And, most astonishing of all, not well known even to film buffs.
I've known this movie has been out for a while but didn't get around to
seeing it until this morning. I noticed it was made in
Jesse Bradford's character, Aaron Kurlander, is growing up during the depression in the 1930's and like most kids his age during that time period, he had to grow up quickly in order to survive and help the family while still maintaining his childhood innocense.
It's a delightful movie and well worth the time to view it.
I saw Jesse Bradford in a movie called "Swim Fan" a few months ago and had not made the connection that he was the boy in "King Of The Hill" until I came across the information on the Internet Movie Database. He's grown up over the last nine years, that's for certain. (+:
This is one of those movies that stays with you forever. The main character is young Aaron Kurlander who lives with his mother,father, and little brother in a small apartment set during the 30's in America during the Depression era. The family wants to save money, they are a poor family, so Aaron's little brother is sent away to relatives. His mother gets sick and is send to a sanatarium. And then his father who until then is an unsuccessful business man, is then offered a job away from home and takes it, which leaves young Aaron to fend for himself. Being at such a young age and not well-equipped to take the outside world on by himself, Aaron somehow manages too anyway.
This film is absent a plot. Since there is really no solid story line,
it is just another slice-of-life film. I am somewhat upset and confused
that I spent about an hour and a half following this (mostly mute) kid
around, waiting for either him to do something major, or for something
major to happen to him. Alas, nothing ever happens.
Even when the kid and the director) is presented with something substantial ( a doomed friendship with Ella, played by Amber Benson), the main character and the film fail to seize the moment and create something for us to focus on. How can a producer con a large Hollywood studio into producing a picture with no real story.., and which subsequently loses over six million dollars at the box office? Is it something to do with tax write-offs or contracts?
King of the Hill is an impressive film, and I wanted to like it more than I did, but throughout the film I found myself asking: "Is this the same Soderbergh who made Sex, Lies, and Videotape? The same Soderbergh who would become one of the most innovative and versatile directors of 90s and 2000s American cinema?" The film, however, is encumbered by corny music, cheap sentimentality, and bad special effects. I don't know much about the production, but if I had to guess I'd say that these discrepancies are not the work of Soderbergh, but the studio behind him. Soderbergh was, after all, a fresh faced Independent director looking to find his footing, and landing in Universal Studios. It wouldn't be the first case of studio intervention in 90s Independent Cinema - specifically the early 90s, when Independent Cinema was still on the rise and didn't have the strength it had after the success of films like Clerks, Pulp Fiction, etc. (but before the late 90s and subsequent failure of various studio funded films by "Independent" directors). Universal Studios in particular is notorious for its "intervention". I'd like to refer readers to the case of Terry Gilliam's Brazil. Where the film succeeds, it triumphs. The performance of young Jesse Bradford (in the lead); supporting performances by Spalding Gray, Karen Allen, and a young Adrian Brody; masterful adaptation and direction by Steven Soderbergh... If only the quality was consistent.
This is a magnificent example of Soderbergh at his best. Not Soderbergh
deconstructionist or Soderbergh the hipster/geek auteur, but Soderbergh
storyteller. Definitely the best work of his career so
The film is full of stunningly poignant moments. From the father's conversation in the car to the little brother's fart joke that signifies that the children are free to be children again, this is the rare unsentimental movie that can nonetheless reduce grown men to tears.
The greatest thing about this film, though is the towering performance of Soderbergh regular Joseph Chrest as the demented Bellhop. Between this, "The Underneath," "Out of Sight," "Erin Brockovich," and his appearances in some of Chris Carter's more memorable television experiments, Chrest has proven himself to be a yeoman character actor along the lines of Philip Seymour Hoffman or John C. Reilly.
Would someone like P.T. Anderson, David Lynch, The Coen Brothers, or even you yourself, Mr. Soderbergh, please give this quirky genius more screen time and make him the star he deserves to be already? Please?
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