An all-night FM talk jockey (Jack Nicholson) is drawn into the Atlantic City scams of his estranged brother (Bruce Dern) in Bob Rafelson's original, eccentric and affecting 1972 film.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2007
Bob Rafelson's bleak Atlantic City crime drama is one of the most underrated films of the 70s and a fine example of New Hollywood's willingness to undergo an incisive existential exploration of the American Dream, exposed here as an empty concept. Challenging stuff. David (Jack Nicholson) is a thoughtful, reflective late-night radio host in Philadelphia. Telling stories on air, he often muses about his older brother Jason (Bruce Dern) – a small-time crook in Atlantic City – and the exciting things he imagines he gets up to. One night during David's show, Jason rings his brother up and beckons him down to Atlantic City where he is hustling a deal to buy a Pacific Island to turn into a resort. Vivid, with a hypnotic pace, The King of Marvin Gardens is exquisitely photographed by László Kovács. Nicholson and Dern are captivating as polar opposite brothers, and Ellen Burstyn strikes a nerve with her sometimes hysterical portrayal of a brittle, faded beauty along for the ride. Solid and striking.