King of the Corner

When an actor who frequents Hollywood screens steps off to make an indie film, is it good?

Yes and no.

As snobby subscribers to indie and lo-fi culture, do we automatically think large-scale productions are a generalized smear of bad taste?

Yes and no.

Because if we do then this time, we’re wrong.

This movie is actually not that bad. Sure, there are the bad suburban mall scenes, the elevator music and the California trash scenery. But Leo Spivak, played by the Academy Award nominee Peter Reigert, is actually kind of a cool guy. For one, he drives a shit box; it’s brown with caramel interiors. Secondly, before Reigert took up acting (which was before he took up directing), he was an elementary school teacher and a social worker. And knowing all this, we see where his wealth of dynamic cast comes from, and Reigert walks around the stage like he’s a teacher. He’s casual, he’s easygoing, he’s naturally philosophical. He’s our very own Frank McCourt, in a way. You think Reigert has an acceptable message to reach a large audience, but really, it’s not that simple. This film is abstract. It seems like it could have, at one point, been a comic book. It has that Malkovichian strangeness while still remaining accessible, and a Bretonesque surrealism that allows you to keep your feet on the ground. The main themes in the film are market research, parenthood, adultery, mentorship and ugly honesty. They’re collaged together in a way that is non linear, which makes it far from a sitcom structure. Everything in the film explodes when Leo Spivak’s bitter father finally dies (when he slips on his own shit), and emotion explodes like a blender without a lid at the funeral (with a freelance Rabbi).

Spivak is the kind of guy who cheats on his wife with a high-school obsession only to be brutally honest about it later, and pretends to be “crunching some numbers” at work when in fact he is just playing solitaire. There’s something normal about King of the Corner. We’re left with the impression that after all the characters Reigert has played in Hollywood, he just once wanted to play himself. (Nadja Sayej)

Dir. Peter Reigert, US$19.95, www.kingofthecornerfilm.com

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