A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this indie drama features mature themes about mental illness and parent-child relationships. The main character is a manic depressive who has just been released from a mental institution, and his 16-year-old daughter has quit school and works double shifts to support herself and her dad. There are a few curse words (including a couple of "f--k"s), a little smoking and drinking, one brief kiss, and a disturbing image of a suicide attempt.
What's the story?
Charlie (Michael Douglas), a California jazz musician who's just been released from a mental institution and returned home to live with his teenage daughter, Miranda (the always-exceptional young actress Evan Rachel Wood). Ever since she was a little girl, Miranda has known how to take care of herself -- and her manic-depressive dad. Instead of attending high school, she works double shifts at McDonald's to pay the bills. But Charlie has more exciting plans for his new freedom than finding a job. He embarks -- shiny metal detector in hand -- on a mission to find the Spanish gold that he's certain a particular conquistador left buried nearby. It doesn't take long for Charlie to convince Miranda to join him on his exploits, which lead to a suburban Costco that's supposedly right on top of the gold.
Is it any good?
Michael Douglas is charming and convincing as a mentally unstable man who loves his daughter. He and Wood mesh well on screen -- their characters' emotional needs and vulnerabilities are always on full display. Regardless of whether Charlie and Miranda uncover the long-lost treasure, their elaborate scheme to look for it is heartachingly tender to watch.
Douglas, like many other actors who've reached his level of acclaim, can obviously be very choosy about the roles he accepts. Most A-list actors would probably prefer not to star in a directorial debut, but Douglas' unpredictable character in KING OF CALIFORNIA makes it clear why the Oscar winner would take a chance on newbie director Mike Cahill.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Miranda supports her dad's quest. Should she have tried to stop him? Is theirs a typical parent-child relationship? What other movies and TV shows can you think of that have featured similar situations?
Families can also discuss product placement. Costco and McDonald's are prominently featured in the film. Did that add to or detract from the story for you? Why?
- In theaters: September 27, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: January 29, 2008
- Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Michael Douglas, Willis Burks II
- Director: Mike Cahill
- Studio: First Look Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some strong language, mature thematic elements and brief drug references.