Sunday, July 5, 2020

King of the Hill

Movie Name: King of the Hill
Year of Release: 1993
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Jesse Bradford, Jeroen Krabbe, Lisa Eichhorn, Karen Allen, Spalding Gray, Elizabeth McGovern, Adrien Brody, Cameron Boyd, Joe Chrest, Amber Benson, Kristin Griffith, Chris Samples, Peggy Freisen, John Durbin, Lauryn Hill, Katherine Heigl, Ron Vawter
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 9 

Synopsis and Review:
Following the stupendous "sex, lies and videotape" and the underrated "Kafka", director Steven Soderbergh tackled the memoir of writer A. E. Hotchner. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival of 1993, where it was met with great reviews, even if it did not win any awards. The film takes place in St. Louis, during the 1930s, at the peak of the Depressing, and  follows the story of young Aaron, who lives with his younger brother Sullivan, and his parents in a hotel. His mom is forced to go into a sanatorium due to Tuberculosis, while his younger brother is sent off to live with an uncle of theirs, since the family are in dire financial problems. His father, a traveling salesman, is off for long periods of time, leaving young Aaron by himself, having to rely on the friendship of a few, and trying to avoid eviction from the hotel as much as possible.
"King of the Hill" is one of Steven Soderbergh's most under the radar films, having come out in 1993, when he was still riding the high expectations of "sex, lies and videotape", which made him a central figure for the emerging Independent film movement of the 90s (and the Sundance Film Festival in particular). The film is a coming of age story, focused on the charismatic Aaron, and his trials and tribulations, attempting to live and survive, as life throws constant challenges at him. At 12, and by himself, Aaron is responsible for going to school, finding his own food, and making sure he still has a place to live, even if the family is in a precarious situation. Soderbergh could have easily made this into a grim and stark film, but instead the narrative is filled with joy, warmth and wonder. He doesn't shy away of showcasing the difficulties this child experiences, but also depicts Aaron's adventures, and his realizations of what life, relationships and ultimately adulthood imply. It's a testament to Soderbergh's capacity, married with his stylish perspective, that the film feels fresh, pertinent and consistently engrossing. The cast is uniformly fantastic, with Jesse Bradford, Jeroen Krabbe, Karen Allen, Adrien Brody all making lasting impressions. The cinematography from Elliot Davis is stunning, as is the score of the wonderfully talented Cliff Martinez (who has worked with Soderbergh since 1989's "sex, lies and videotape"). One of the best films of this director, always worth revisiting.