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THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS Director Bob Rafelson and actor Jack Nicholson’s follow-up to their Oscar-nominated Five Easy Pieces didn’t meet with the same level of critical or commercial success, but 40 years later it endures as an even darker, more bleakly poetic portrait of bottomed-out lives in Vietnam-era America. Set during winter in the run-down resort town of Atlantic City, New Jersey (in the days before legalized gambling), The King of Marvin Gardens stars the electrifying Bruce Dern as a small-time hustler who attempts to lure his estranged brother (Nicholson), an all-night Philadelphia radio DJ, into a sure-fire, get-rich-quick real estate scheme. The result is a real-life Monopoly game in which everyone goes bust and no one gets out of jail free. With ace support from Ellen Burstyn (as one half of the stepmother-stepdaughter act competing for Dern’s affections), the crackling dialogue of Rafelson and co-screenwriter Jacob Brackman, and the harshly beautiful cinematography of László Kovács, The King of Marvin Gardens stands as one of the great and largely unheralded American films of the ‘70s.

THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS Director Bob Rafelson and actor Jack Nicholson’s follow-up to their Oscar-nominated Five Easy Pieces didn’t meet with the same level of critical or commercial success, but 40 years later it endures as an even darker, more bleakly poetic portrait of bottomed-out lives in Vietnam-era America. Set during winter in the run-down resort town of Atlantic City, New Jersey (in the days before legalized gambling), The King of Marvin Gardens stars the electrifying Bruce Dern as a small-time hustler who attempts to lure his estranged brother (Nicholson), an all-night Philadelphia radio DJ, into a sure-fire, get-rich-quick real estate scheme. The result is a real-life Monopoly game in which everyone goes bust and no one gets out of jail free. With ace support from Ellen Burstyn (as one half of the stepmother-stepdaughter act competing for Dern’s affections), the crackling dialogue of Rafelson and co-screenwriter Jacob Brackman, and the harshly beautiful cinematography of László Kovács, The King of Marvin Gardens stands as one of the great and largely unheralded American films of the ‘70s.

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