All the King’s Men can’t accurately be described as a drama or a comedy or a thriller or any other genre. The only word I can use to express this remake is “Oscarbait.”
All the King’s Men doesn’t try to tell a story or really even try to entertain in anyway. Instead, it spends every available frame screaming “for your consideration.”
Every shot is a shining, polished show piece. Every line of dialogue is melodic and 9˝ months pregnant with meaning. Every performance is a crafted tour de force. It’s too bad in all that they weren’t able to throw together a real “movie.”
All the King’s Men is a remake of a film that actually did win Best Picture way back in 1949. Its cast has many Oscars and nominations between them from Sean Penn to Anthony Hopkins the Kate Winslet to Patricia Clarkson and so one. When you check the credits you see the award heavy pedigree of the writer/director Steven Zaillian as well as others behind the scenes. Could you scream “pick me” any louder?
This is the tale of a reporter who follows the rise and fall of a grass roots politician from Louisiana who gets corrupted by the system. All the King’s Men should be a biting indictment of democracy in the age of capitalism. However, this crew is too busy vying for awards to care about story.
There is nothing subtle in Zaillian’s rip off. When he wants symbolism he throws it at you. The final scene of blood running over the state legislature is the pinnacle of Zaillian’s heavy handedness. However he isn’t alone in going over the top. Penn’s performance of the politician is more mugging than acting. He crosses the line between character and caricature early on in the film. Penn’s never been subtle but he is usually able to make it feel real. I guess reality doesn’t play much into the making of All the King’s Men.
The films we remember as being the best are not the films that are made in an attempt to be remembered. They are made out of love and crafted to be the best they can be. It’s a story that needs to be told not gold to be mined for someone else’s glory. All the King’s Men is a very polished and accomplished attempt to win accolades but it ends up amounting to a whole lot of nothing. In that way, maybe it accurately critiques our political system after all.