Worth Putting in Your Netflix Queue, Vol. 1
The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)
Silly twentysomething videophiles! And you thought that the Coen Brothers and Wes Anderson had invented quirky, elliptical dramas about complicated family relationships and/or hustles gone bad? Check out Bob Rafaelson's follow-up to Five Easy Pieces, with Jack Nicholson in the kind of understated role of which he became physically incapable later in his career: as a morose monologist on some kind of public access radio who's summoned to Atlantic City when his brother ends up in jail. (The movie opens with a fascinating, if disorienting, soliloquy that begins with Nicholson sighing heavily into his microphone, "Did I ever tell you why I don't eat fish?") Bruce Dern is an excellent foil as the gregarious sibling, the Misstra-Know-It-All with some kind of sketchy real estate plan in mind. Add, too, Scatman Crothers as an enigmatic crime boss and Ellen Burstyn as a mentally unstable lover, competing for Dern's affections with her stepdaughter. The story doesn't move according to any kind of recognizable narrative schematic, and--if you believe Roger Ebert's review anyway--there's maybe a bit too much heavy-handed symbolism drawn from the game Monopoly, but if you're looking for something different, this it it.