King of California Mike Cahill

King of California Mike Cahill
Whether he’s insane or inspired, Michael Douglas’s lucid wackadoo Charlie is amongst the aging actor’s most endearing characters. First time director and screenwriter Mike Cahill wooed the support of producer Alexander Payne (the director of Sideways) with his story of an ambiguously unstable father who upon release from a mental institution, leads his daughter on a treasure hunt for Spanish gold buried somewhere in suburbia. Charlie’s brand of craziness is born of an irrepressible urge to learn and explore to the exclusion of all other sensible worldly concerns. When his self-supporting daughter Miranda questions his assertions, there’s always a hint of a daughter’s unconditional desire to believe in her father. A stickler for facts, Charlie’s level of insanity is a fundamental question of the film, as it’s his methods rather than his motives that don’t adhere to conventional standards of social acceptability. Miranda is the standard of rationality and responsibility Charlie is measured against, and Evan Rachel Wood handles the role reversal of father and daughter with a believable balance of frustration and faith. The happy accidents that can shape a low-budget feature are well documented in the commentary track with Cahill, assistant director Richard L. Fox, cinematographer Jim Whitaker and production designer Dan Bishop. For example, when the opening scene called for guns and dogs, a lack of budget forced Cahill to rethink the scene in a less obvious and ultimately more effectively offbeat manner. In an effort to maintain a firm sense of reality and display the encroachment of modern civilisation, the filmmakers used real locations and store names. Denied by Wal-Mart, the team ended up shooting in a Costco while the employees stocked shelves and late clearance from McDonald’s led to some re-shoots. The "making of” is quite standard but the delightfully goofy outtakes are a special treat more films should include. (Maple)