The King of Marvin Gardens (1972) starring Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Ellen Burstyn, Julia Anne Robinson, Scatman Crothers, Charles LaVine directed by Bob Rafelson Movie Review

The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Bruce Dern and Jack Nicholson in The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)

Bruce's Boardwalk Empire

If you are thinking about watching "The King of Marvin Gardens" for the first time then my best advice is start to watch it but if after 5 minutes you have not been gripped by the opening monologue and performance from Jack Nicholson then stop. You see "The King of Marvin Gardens" is not what I call traditional entertainment but is a movie of deeper meaning a symbolism which to be honest if it doesn't grab you within those first 5 minutes it is going to end up 103 minutes of your life wasted. In a way it is a product of when it was released and so attaching yourself to the sub context for the first time now is hard and without that connection it ends up too strange almost seemingly pointless.

Now I am one of those people who watched "The King of Marvin Gardens" for the first time long after it was released and so I didn't get it. In fact I was so lost as to what this movie was really about I went searching for answers because it doesn't make a great deal of sense. What seems like the story is straight laced brother David heading to run down Atlantic City because of his older brother Jason believes they can make their dreams come true and whilst there getting to know Sally and step daughter Jessica whilst wondering who the mysterious Lewis is. But what this seems to be about, depending on who you speak to is about the symbolism of decay or the American dream or both or just a character study of 4 very different people.

Ellen Burstyn and Julia Anne Robinson in The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)

So yes unless you find some sort of connection to the deeper meaning you are left at odds totally unsure of what is really going on and for 103 minutes struggling to get into a movie which appears to be going nowhere. But I am sure that for those who watched "The King of Marvin Gardens" when it was first released and are American that deeper connection is far more prominent. It is why I started off by saying that if you are planning to watch "The King of Marvin Gardens" for the first time assess how you feel after the first 5 minutes before possibly wasting anymore time.

Of course the reason why most people would consider watching "The King of Marvin Gardens" for the first time now is because of its cast which includes Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Ellen Burstyn, Scatman Crothers and possibly for Julia Anne Robinson although this was her only movie. And in fairness each of the actors play their parts well, Nicholson delivers a very different character than most associate with him, a straight laced thinking man who speaks in flourishes of words and both Bruce Dern and Ellen Burstyn have this edge of maniacal danger about them. But again like the movie these are strange characters and they are hard to associate with, hard to like or hate because of their peculiarity and unless Nicholson's opening monologue grabs you then chances are the rest of the performances are going to struggle.

What this all boils down to is that "The King of Marvin Gardens" just didn't do it for me because I could not connect with the story, the characters or the deeper meaning despite enjoying Nicholson's portrayal of a different sort of characters. But then "The King of Marvin Gardens" feels very much a product of its era which was trying to speak to disillusioned American's at that time and so watching it now is to watch it out of context.