A young boy struggles on his own in a run-down motel after his parents and younger brother are separated from him in 1930s Depression-era Midwest.

Director:

Steven Soderbergh

Writers:

A.E. Hotchner (memoir), Steven Soderbergh (screenplay)
8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jesse Bradford ... Aaron
Jeroen Krabbé ... Mr. Kurlander
Lisa Eichhorn ... Mrs. Kurlander
Karen Allen ... Miss Mathey
Spalding Gray ... Mr. Mungo
Elizabeth McGovern ... Lydia
Cameron Boyd ... Sullivan
Adrien Brody ... Lester
Joe Chrest ... Ben (as Joseph Chrest)
John McConnell ... Patrolman Burns
Amber Benson ... Ella McShane
Kristin Griffith ... Mrs. McShane
Chris Samples ... Billy Thompson
Peggy Freisen Peggy Freisen ... Mrs. Thompson
Katherine Heigl ... Christina Sebastian
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Storyline

A boy whose mother is forced into a sanitarium and father gets a job as a traveling salesman. The boy fends for himself in a seedy SRO hotel. Written by Mark Allyn <allyn@netcom.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

When the world turns upside down, the trick is coming out on top.

Genres:

Drama | History

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #698. See more »

Goofs

When Aaron and Lester break into the hotel room to find a dress for Aaron to wear in graduation, Lester picks the door lock with a single pocket knife. However no locks can be opened with a single instrument, he should have had at least a wrench too. See more »

Quotes

Mr. Mungo: Perhaps you could spare one or two bites for young Aaron.
Aaron: Oh, no. Really, I couldn't.
Lydia: When Aaron here works for his meal the way I did, he can have some.
Mr. Mungo: That wouldn't be feasible.
Lydia: [Sarcastic] With you, who knows?
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Crazy Credits

Picture editing performed on the editdroid See more »


Soundtracks

Can't We Talk It Over
(1931)
Music by Victor Young
Lyrics by Ned Washington
Performed by Eddy Duchin (as Eddie Duchin)
Courtesy of Columbia Records
By Arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
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User Reviews

 
This is not Norman Rockwell's America
5 December 2006 | by WriterDaveSee all my reviews

I can recall first seeing "King of the Hill" shorty after its initial release when I wasn't much older than the main character, Aaron (Jesse Bradford, who displays the natural swagger of a young George Clooney here). I was totally enthralled by the story, and this was one of the pieces that ushered in my complete love for and eerie obsession with Depression Era America.

Steven Soderbergh as a director over the years has been wildly all over the map traversing genres and styles from top-notch cracker-jack indie flicks (the superb "Limey") to vapid star-studded populist entertainment (the "Oceans" series) to entertaining star vehicles (the excellent "Erin Brockovich") to overblown misguided message movies ("Traffic") to Kubrickian quandaries (the unfairly maligned "Solaris"). In 1993, still in his formative early years, he hit all the right notes with his vividly detailed and heartbreaking tale of a young boy (Bradford) abandoned in a sleazy hotel room on the edge of a Hooverville in 1933 St. Louise by his flaky salesman father, consumption riddled mother, and little brother who got shipped off to live with relatives so he wouldn't starve to death. The boy lies, steals, woos girls and wins academic awards at school propelled only by his keen wit and innate will to survive. Soderbergh brilliantly abandons almost all sentimentality (the exchanges between the brothers are heartfelt but raw, between mother and son tragically subdued, and between father and son frightfully cold yet honest) and views not the actions of the characters through the lens of our modern moral codes, but through the lens of the era in which the characters survived.

Special note has to be given to the cinematography, which in lesser period pieces can so easily succumb to stylish excess. The film looks real and puts you right there in the middle of this American quagmire. There's also one amazingly rendered shot of a traffic cop holding up a squealing street urchin by the ear after capturing the boy stealing an apple that is so painstakingly lighted and framed that it serves as the complete flip-side of your classic Norman Rockwell painting from the same era.

Viewing this film recently on cable, I was even more transfixed than the first time over thirteen years ago. There's also delight to be found in seeing Oscar winner Adrien Brody in his first major role as Aaron's "big brother" role model, and Grammy winner Lauryn Hill in a nice bit part as a sympathetic gum-chewing elevator operator.

Although historically little seen, this film has been universally lauded, and as the early masterwork of an Oscar winning director, it's a crime that there has been no DVD release.


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

20 August 1993 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

King of the Hill See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$8,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$46,476, 22 August 1993

Gross USA:

$1,214,231

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$1,214,231
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby SR

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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