King of California

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King of California
King of California.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMike Cahill
Produced byMichael London
Alexander Payne
Avi Lerner
Randall Emmett
Written byMike Cahill
StarringMichael Douglas
Evan Rachel Wood
Willis Burks II
Music byDavid Robbins
CinematographyJim Whitaker
Edited byGlenn Garland
Distributed byFirst Look International
Release date
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$10 million[1]
Box office$1.03 million[2]

King of California is a 2007 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Mike Cahill. It is his debut as a screenwriter and director.[3] The film premiered on January 24, 2007 at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival[4] and opened in limited release in North America on September 14, 2007. The film stars Michael Douglas as a mentally ill man who believes he has discovered buried treasure and Evan Rachel Wood as his weary daughter.


16-year-old Miranda has been abandoned by her mother, and has dropped out of school. She is supporting herself as an employee at McDonald's while her father, Charlie, resides in a mental institution.

When Charlie is released and sent back to their home, Miranda finds the relatively peaceful existence she's built for herself completely disrupted. Charlie has become obsessed with the notion that the long-lost treasure of Spanish explorer Father Juan Florismarte Torres is buried somewhere near their suburban California house in the Santa Clarita Valley. Armed with a metal detector and a stack of treasure-hunting books, Charlie soon finds reason to believe that the gold resides underneath the local Costco, and encourages Miranda to get a job there so that they can plan a way to excavate after hours.

Initially skeptical, Miranda soon finds herself joining in Charlie's questionable antics in an effort to give him one last shot at accomplishing his dreams.

After becoming involved with some swingers, Miranda then helps Charlie break into the Costco. Once inside, they drill through the floor and then into a very smelly underground river. Charlie steals some scuba diving equipment, dives into the river, and then imaginably finds the gold. He leaves Miranda a tag and tells her not to lose it. When the police arrives at the Costco, Charlie is seen to carry a small but heavy chest, hiding from the police. He then jumps into the river again, where he pursues further, sees a bright light and swims towards it. Miranda's voice from the off says that his body was never found, although Charlie is seen still alive swimming in the river after that. The next day, Miranda visits Costco and finds the product the tag belongs to, a dishwasher, buys it and brings it to the beach in her old car. When Miranda opens the dishwasher, she is seen bathed in a golden glow and a slow smile spreads across her face, a strong indication that Charlie has cached the gold inside the dishwasher, although the gold is never actually shown to the viewer.

There is a theme of ambiguity/duality that runs through the movie, regarding what is real and what is imagined. The theme is underlined by the recurring line "you could look it up." but a source to look in is not given. While Charlie's judgement is in question for the whole story, he does seem to accurately perceive the nature of Miranda's co-workers to be swingers, as well as the sexual interest by the female police officer. As Charlie is faced with poverty, the losses of his house, mind and jazz career (his last friend & band member has cancer), he focuses on one last adventure with his daughter and gives her his treasure - his dreams - which are perhaps what she sees in the dishwasher he tells her to get.



Director-screenwriter Mike Cahill had written a draft of the script in the mid-1980s but was not pleased with it and put it away, focusing instead on writing novels. He turned down one offer to finance the film's production because he refused to shoot it in Albuquerque.[5][6]

According to Michael Douglas, King of California was filmed in only 31 days.[7] Mike Cahill said Douglas became interested in the project simply by virtue of having been sent the script.[6] Co-star Evan Rachel Wood remarked that Douglas frequently made the cast and crew roll over laughing at film sessions – so much so that entire scenes had to be reshot.[8]

Charlie uses a Discwasher to clean his vinyl jazz LP.


The film premiered on January 24, 2007 in Sundance Film Festival and on September 14, 2007 in United States.[9]

Box office[edit]

At the end of box office run, King of California grossed of $268,461 in North America and $759,238 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $1,027,699.[2]

The film earned itself a weekend gross of $35,814 playing in 5 theaters with a per-theatre average of $7,162 and ranking #58.[2] The biggest market in other territories being Italy, Germany and France where the film grossed $300,080, $143,683, $121,140 respectively.[10]

Critical response[edit]

As of January 6, 2008 on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 63% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 68 reviews with an average rating of 6.2/10. The site's conseus reads: "A quirky and often touching comedy about a mature teenager and her manic depressive father, King of California is a charming tale of familial relations and treasure hunting".[11] On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 63 out of 100, based on 22 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[12]

New York Times film critic Stephen Holden described King of California as "a sequel of sorts" to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), noting the similarity between the characters of Charlie and Randle McMurphy (played by Jack Nicholson) in the two films. Praising Michael Douglas' acting as "his strongest screen performance since Wonder Boys," Holden concludes that King of California "is really a Don Quixote-like fable about nonconformity and pursuing your impossible dream to the very end."[13]

Ted Fry of The Seattle Times also extolled Michael Douglas' acting as "one of his stronger performances." Fry summed up his review calling King of California "a strong effort by first time writer/director Mike Cahill that will keep you bemused for its idiosyncratic voice."[14]

Home media[edit]

King of California was released on DVD in the U.K. in early June 2008.


  1. ^ Adams, Sam (9 September 2007). "This avenue is no 'Wall Street'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 March 2011. The roughly $10-million shoot was a brisk 32 days, including five nights after hours in a Costco.
  2. ^ a b c "King of California". Retrieved March 31, 2012.
  3. ^ Goldstein, Gregg (26 January 2007). ""King of California" rules at Sundance". Reuters. Retrieved 29 March 2011. It marks the debut effort of writer-director Mike Cahill.
  4. ^ "King of California". Sundance Institute. Retrieved 29 March 2011. With an energy that both disarms and delights, Cahill transforms the stereotypical image of the California eccentric and the even-more-familiar tale of pursuing your dreams into a dramatically powerful and imaginative fable that explores both the difficulties of a father/daughter relationship and the excesses of people and societies run amok.
  5. ^ Lytal, Cristy (11 September 2007). "With a little help from his friends". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 March 2011. At least two deals fell apart, one because Cahill didn't want to substitute Albuquerque for Southern California. 'It just doesn't look like California. Nothing does,' says the San Francisco-born Cahill, who collects California artifacts and reads extensively about the state's history.
  6. ^ a b Mandelberger, Sandy (21 January 2007). "Interview With Mike Cahill, Director of KING OF CALIFORNIA". Sundance Online Dailies. Retrieved 2 April 2011. I wrote a draft of the script fifteen years ago and it was no good, so I put it away and wrote some books and other things." "We simply sent him the script.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Douglas, Michael (15 September 2007). "The Role Of A Lifetime". Newsweek. Retrieved 29 March 2011. I still go to work, but now only on projects I really care about. I have a new movie coming out called 'King of California.' We filmed it in only 31 days, not like some of the 90-day shooting schedules of the past.
  8. ^ Germain, David (27 September 2007). "Douglas digs for comic gold in 'King'". USA Today. Retrieved 29 March 2011. Douglas' antics were so successful, he had the cast and crew doubling over in laughter, co-star Wood said.
  9. ^ "King of California release". IMDB. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  10. ^ "King of California". IMDB. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  11. ^ "King of California - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
  12. ^ "King of California (2007): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
  13. ^ Holden, Stephen (14 September 2007). "A Determined Bipolar Dad in Search of Buried Treasure". New York Times. Retrieved 29 March 2011. The forces of oppression, instead of being distilled into a single authoritarian enemy like Nurse Ratched, are spread out. Everywhere Charlie goes in his search, he is interrupted and questioned by the police and security guards. The Southern California environment itself, where orange groves give way to strip malls, is portrayed as spiritually suffocating.
  14. ^ Fry, Ted (28 September 2007). "'King of California': Her father's keeper". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 29 March 2011. This is a strong effort by first time writer/director Mike Cahill that will keep you bemused for its idiosyncratic voice.

External links[edit]