If there's one thing Michael Douglas does really well, it's crazy. In 1993, he did crazy to near-perfection as William "D-Fens" Foster in Joel Schumacher's Falling Down. I still think of Douglas's performance in that film 14 years later -- I ruminated on it most recently while stuck in traffic for 40 minutes due to road construction on my way to the Telluride Film Festival. Visions of Douglas wigging out and blowing up the construction site after he confronts the foreman and confirms his long-held suspicion that there was, in fact, no reason whatsoever for the construction that was tying up traffic danced in my head as I sat there whiling away the endless minutes. Douglas tackled a different kind of crazy in Wonder Boys, the film adaptation of one of my favorite novels, in which he perfectly embodied Professor Grady Tripp, who's gotten lost in a haze of pot smoke while having an affair with his boss's wife and endlessly writing a novel called Wonder Boys, which seems to have no end.
In King of California, which played at Sundance earlier this year and opens theatrically this weekend, Douglas tackles another kind of crazy as Charlie: long-haired, wild-eyed dad to a teenage daughter, Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood, who's become rather the go-to girl of the moment for angsty teen girl roles). As we enter Charlie and Miranda's story, Charlie has just returned home after a relaxing two-year stay in a mental institution, during which the now 16-year-old Miranda has fended for herself, dropping out of school in order to hold down a crappy fast-food job to pay the bills and keep their dilapidated house, and even buy her own car. Miranda has achieved a measure of scrappy independence without Charlie in her life, and his reappearance is met with something less than the enthusiasm Charlie anticipated.