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JACK NICHOLSON 'THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS' BRUCE DERN

Title: THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS Year: 1972 Rating: ***

Maybe directors never really outgrow their film school mindset: And in that, following what would forever remain their collaborative pinnacle, FIVE EASY PIECES director Bob Rafelson gave his close friend Jack Nicholson a break from the stereotype of being the feisty rebel type, here a meek Philly-dwelling radio host of melancholy monologues...

Then again maybe he should have played Bruce Dern's conniving con-man older brother Jason Staebler, on the stumbling verge of an Atlantic City land deal with a few obstacles including a potentially dangerous kingpin (Nicholson's three picture co-star, Scatman Crothers) and especially his women...

Bruce Dern and Jack Nicholson in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS

Dern, though is a nicely suited mix of cocky, confident and neurotic for the part, and while stretching as an actor is a good thing, Jack's bookish underdog comes across as too awkward, self-aware, a tad artsy, pretentious, and in holding back what we know of his limitless range, somewhat frustrating to witness... 

Then again, KING centers on the combination of an Alpha Male and Beta, so it simply takes time getting used to Jack as a complete pushover in the little brother part of David, who Dern's Jason controls and manipulates,,,

Ellen Burstyn and Julia Anne Robinson in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS

As Dern's the kind of unapologetic wheeler-dealer able to keep two ladies intact; a subtle female team-up that has Ellen Burstyn's intense and determined Sally with her tag-along, younger, prettier step-daughter, Jessica, played by a little known natural beauty (who'd die in a fire a few years later) Julia Anne Robinson...

Experiencing Burstyn somewhat wasting her talent on a seemingly non-scripted actor's workshop is like Nicholson's role as the vehicle's proverbial blown-out front tire — stuck on the passenger's side since Dern's left drive the beautifully-shot Atlantic City-set indie, and he's intriguing enough to watch as more a sociopath than his usual psychopath — it's just never clear exactly what he's selling, and why they're buying.

Jack Nicholson THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS with  Julia Anne Robinson & Bruce Dern
Ellen Burstyn in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS
Jack Nicholson in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS with Bruce Dern
Jack Nicholson in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS with Bruce Dern
Ellen Burstyn in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS with  Julia Anne Robinson
Jack Nicholson in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS with Scatman Crothers
Bruce Dern in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS with Ellen Burstyn
Jack Nicholson in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS
Julia Anne Robinson  in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS
Julia Anne Robinson  in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS
Jack Nicholson & Bruce Dern do The 3rd Man in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS
Jack Nicholson in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS
Jack Nicholson in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS
Julia Anne Robinson  in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS
Jack Nicholson in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS with Scatman Crothers
Jack Nicholson in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS
Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS
Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS
Jack Nicholson in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS
Jack Nicholson in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS
Jack Nicholson in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS with  Julia Anne Robinson
Jack Nicholson and  Julia Anne Robinson in THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS

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