Now, we come to one that is definitely in my top 10 of Adrien’s performances.
My overall score: 8/10
Brody performance score: 9/10
Cast: Jeroen Krabbe’, Lisa Eichhorn, Karen Allen, Spalding Gray, Elizabeth McGovern, and Jesse Bradford as Aaron (featuring: Adrien Brody, Amber Benson, Katherine Heigl and Lauren Hill)
Written by: A.E. Hotchner (memoir), Steven Soderbergh (screenplay)
Produced by: Barbara Maltby, Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Genre: Drama, Biography/History
Running Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
King of the Hill is, to use an overused phrase: a powerful film.
It gives you an unflinching look into The Great Depression (a time of great economic hardship in the 1930s) from a young man’s perspective.
Aaron Kurlander (a remarkable Jesse Bradford) lives with his parents and younger brother in a run-down St. Louis, Missouri hotel. We gather that the hotel was perhaps a grand establishment at some point. Likewise, we gather that many of its residents were wealthy before the economy tanked.
Aaron is a very intelligent young man with a very vivid imagination. We are introduced to him as he’s giving a presentation about famed pilot Charles Lindbergh. The report is well-written and it’s clear Aaron has a lot of creative talent. His talent for storytelling proves very useful when trying to blend in with his well-to-do classmates and their parents.
Rather than detailing the entire plot of the film and spoiling it for any of you who may wish to see it, I’ll say family circumstances lead to Aaron (Jesse Bradford) living by himself in the family’s hotel room.
Aaron’s relationship with this father (Jeroen Krabbe’) is an understandably strained one, so he gets many of his life lessons from a fellow resident of the hotel, Lester (Adrien Brody).
Lester is introduced with a “here comes the hero” style camera shot, which is a brilliant choice on the part of director Steven Soderbergh. It lets the viewer know right away that Lester provides some hope for Aaron in an existence that is short on hope. Lester is who Aaron goes to when he is in need of help or advice, a protective older brother type who is street wise enough to survive (and help Aaron do the same).
The then-19-year-old Brody was an absolutely perfect choice for the role of Lester. You may think me a bit biased, because he is my favorite actor, but it is a brilliant piece of casting. Lester is a blend of tough guy and caring sweetheart, which is what Adrien Brody does best.
Unfortunately, as our story goes on, Aaron is separated for a time from essentially everyone he knows, including his neighbor Ella (played by a quite young and charming Amber Benson), whom we gather was becoming a love interest for Aaron (in a 12-year-old kind of way, anyway), and sadly, Lester.
When Lester says goodbye, you feel the hope and remaining joy drain from Aaron’s face and it is heartbreaking to watch. Both of these young actors played the scene with ability beyond their years and experience. Beautiful.
Things look very dark for Aaron during the time he is isolated in the hotel room, but he comes through the other side stronger and more willing to stand up for himself. As cliché as it is to say: Aaron was forced to grow up, but we sense he will be a better man for it.