The King of Marvin Gardens

Director: Bob Rafelson
Year Released: 1972
Rating: 2.0

Drained of energy and momentum, two brothers (Bruce Dern and Jack Nicholson) wander around the boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J. (a familiar stomping ground for yours truly) and discuss one of Dern's wacky schemes to buy Shangri-La. Uses the atypical barrenness of the city - which is strangely unpopulated (must have shot it in the morning) - as a metaphor for, of many things, the decay of the American Dream, but the film suffers from an air of superiority and contains a lot of filler - it's intended to be a mood piece but is fatally weak on any kind of substance (and it ends, poorly, too). Ellen Burstyn goes over the deep-end as Dern's lunatic girlfriend, and in a rare average performance, Nicholson struggles to play a milquetoast radio personality (his glasses give him the most trouble). Rafelson tried to recapture the lazy, metaphorical power of Five Easy Pieces but these characters aren't nearly as complex.