King of the Hill
Every once in a while, you come across a film that has the right message at the time you most need it. In some ways, King of the Hill is one of those films for me.
Set in depression-era St. Louis, young Aaron (Jesse Bradford) has a horrible life. His father has lost his job and his brother must be sent to live with a relative so the family can save money. His mother has tuberculosis. The girl next door can't afford her medication, so she suffers from seizures. The kindly man across the hall, Mr. Mungo (Spalding Gray), lost most of his money in the stock market crash and wastes the rest of it on hookers and booze. Everyday, one of his neighbors defaults on the rent, is locked out by the sadistic bellboy and loses his belongings.
All of this is too embarrassing for Aaron to share with his well-to-do classmates. Even though the family has moved out of the school district, Aaron still goes to school with the rich and privileged children from across the tracks. He tells kids at school that his father is a pilot for the government, knows Charles Lindbergh and lives in a fancy apartment building. These wild tales entertain classmates and allow him to have a little dignity.
Soon, Aaron has to learn how to survive on his own. When left alone with no money, can he get by and avoid eviction?
The movie succeeds due to the amazing ability of Jesse Bradford. For such a young man, Bradford is faced with a tough acting challenge. He is in every scene and must evoke the emotions of loneliness, sadness, loss and despair. It is a trying role for an adult, let alone a 12-year old boy. While many kids make stories to cover for embarrassing or unattractive home lives, I am sure you never met any kid with so much strength and perseverance. The movie's most touching scenes revolve around Aaron's attempts to hold on to the meager property that he owns while trying to avoid eviction and starvation. Bradford creates a very likable character, and you will find yourself routing for him as he tries to impress the other kids.
Jereon Krabbe also faces a tough acting challenge. As Aaron's father, he must always try to put the best face on the bad news and life the family must face. In some ways, Steven Soderbergh, has written a very complex and uncaring character trying to masquerade as a loving father. Krabbe's character is emotionally cruel without realizing that he is hurting his child. His explanations of why Aaron's mother and brother must leave town only exacerbate a bad situation and leave the audience to wonder if he understands the pain his family is confronting.
Directed and Written by Steven Soderbergh
Jereon Krabbe Mr. Kerlander
Jesse Bradford Aaron
Lisa Eichhorn .. Mrs. Kerlander
Karen Allen .Miss Mothey
Spalding Gray . Mr. Mango
Elizabeth McGovern .... Lydia
Adrien Brody .. Lester
Cameron Boyd .. Sullivan
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