****/**** Image A Sound A-
starring Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Andy Serkis
screenplay by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson, based on the screenplay by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace
directed by Peter Jackson
by Walter Chaw Naomi Watts is absolutely adorable in King Kong. Good thing, too, because she has to convince that with a few vaudeville pratfalls and a strategically-wielded switch she can win the heart of one of the most venerated monsters in movie history. The way Peter Jackson films her suggests that he's found his own muse: she's always set against impossible backlot sunsets, asked to feign love for a fake film before transforming herself--in the same, wonderful shot--into feigning real love for a man in this film when she spots her suitor, playwright Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody), author of a play ("Isolation") for which she sees herself as perfect for the melancholy lead. ("You must be the saddest girl in New York." She is.) In a lot of ways, Watts's Ann Darrow is the logical extension of her Betty from Mulholland Drive: both are actresses with hidden elements to their personalities, both are asked to audition for us on an imaginary stage, and both, in the end, find themselves embroiled in a dark romance that ends in show-business betrayal. During the final third of King Kong, once the beast famously has Ann in his clutches while scaling the side of a mighty edifice in the Big Apple, it's fair to be distracted by the rapture on her face--and to wonder if she knows that there's only one eventuality possible to her quiescence.