King of the Corner

Director: Peter Riegert

Actor turned director Peter Riegert released an intensely personal, funny yet uneven mid-life crisis drama, based on the book Bad Jews and Other Stories by Gerald Shapiro, with whom he co-wrote the cinematic adaptation King of the Corner. As Leo, Reigert turns in an excellent performance portraying a man with too many responsibilities in his life and not enough time to adequately attend to each. Overworked in his position in advertising, and feeling a bit lost in his marriage to Isabella Rossellini, Leo worries about his daughter’s latest infatuation with a slacker whom he doesn’t quite understand. Adding to his domestic troubles is the guilt of a Jewish son as he’s only able to get to Arizona to check in on his nursing-home bound father every so often, and he spends nearly all of his other time dispassionately test marketing odd products to housewives (such as a phone voice manipulator that sounds like Gregory Peck), in cities across the country with his ambitious young coworker. The character is wonderful on paper and you can definitely tell that Riegert took great pleasure in his astute portrayal and adapting it from the page to the screen but it’s a bit hard to get a grasp on all of his internal workings without the benefit of the text. Leo is a hard character to get a read on for the majority of the film and he comes off as unlikable and unsympathetic as he latches onto his high school crush Beverly D’Angelo and follows an impulsively strange afternoon romp with a weirdly obsessive confrontation at her house later that make us constantly puzzled by his thought processes. While most of the film’s energy is spent on the corporate politics of his job and it’s never quite sure whether it wants to be In Good Company or Jerry Maguire (both superior films about men trying to weigh their priorities re: work vs. family), not enough time is spent on his home life, making the marriage and fatherhood subplots seem a bit weak. However, Riegert’s obvious passion for his material keeps you watching and he was so dedicated to his production that he traveled with King of the Corner to numerous cities personally, playing it in theaters to small audiences and following it up with a Q&A in order to try and build word-of-mouth in a grassroots strategy. Worth a look for fans of Riegert or the book, but otherwise it’s mostly a lot of great small scenes (and an excellent head-scratcher of a main character) but too little offered for audiences to feel truly invested in the overall work.