N.Y. Times staffer David Halbfinger profiles All The Kings’ Men director-writer Steve Zallian, apparently without his having seen the finished film. He writes that ATKM “is already being talked about as an Oscar contender,” but he qualifies this by mentioning that Robert Rossen‘s original 1949 version, starring Broderick Crawford, won the Best Picture Oscar “and no remake has ever matched that feat, Academy researchers say.”

Steve Zallian, Sean Penn

This seems to me like a typical N.Y. Times evasion. Halbfinger has surely dug around and been told what many, many people are saying about this film, which is that it’s problematic on various levels (sluggish, creaky, talky) and will almost certainly encounter limited enthusiasm from the public, but he chooses instead to mention a statistic that implies that Oscar glory may be elusive.
There were expectations that Zaillian’s film would open at the end of ’05, but “when test screenings revealed that audiences were confused about the basic relationships among the main characters, Columbia Pictures agreed to delay the opening, and Mr. Zaillian went back to work.” Eight months later Zallian “has emerged from almost a year of near-solitary confinement in an editing room to pronounce All the King’s Men a finished product. His producers are hoping it will prove his masterpiece.”
All the King’s Men stars Sean Penn, Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini, Patricia Clarkson, Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Hopkins. It’ll open nationwide on 9.22 following some special screenings in New Orleans.
I tried to see it at 5:30 pm yesterday afternoon at the Varsity, but I lost heart when an announcement was made that there were almost no seats available (I was standing near the end of a long line) so I went to three parties in succession and came back for the 10:30 pm screening. Unfortunately, the champagne at the parties on top of the usual late-night fatigue factor messed with my concentration.
I definitely saw portions of ATKM — somewhere between half and three-fifths, I’d say. I know that the parts I was awake for (and I was very alert and attuned during my waking moments) felt enervated and boring. I know that the photography has a kind of drained sepia quality, and that a lot of the scenes are shrouded in dark- ness and flavored with lots and lots of southern-fried, neo-Faulknerian dialogue.
Clarkson has at least one great line: “The world is full of sluts on skates.”
I’ll have to take another shot at seeing ATKM when I get back Los Angeles, I guess. Or on DVD four or five months from now.