Romy Shiller

THE DESCENDANTS

In Film, review on March 9, 2012 at 5:57 pm

You don’t get to pick your family, but you can pick your teachers and you can pick your friends and you can pick the music you listen to and you can pick the books you read and you can pick the movies you see.

Austin Kl

A land baron tries to re-connect with his two daughters after his wife is seriously injured in a boating accident.

Director: Alexander Payne

Writers: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon

Stars: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller

 

So, this film was nominated for an Oscar for best film and George Clooney (Matt King) for best actor. This film unlike other best film nominees like The Artist or Hugo is not about film in any way. It is simply a story about a family. A husband deals with his wife’s coma, her infidelity, and the mostly family dynamics her coma spawns. I think that it is extremely important to show that life can be messy and that certain ideals are less than ideal. This film is the antithesis of a Disney film. I dislike most Disney films because I find they pander to an unrealistic standard.

An interview in Indiewire sees Alexander Payne who made Election, About Schmidt and Sideways discussing the film and he agrees that there is a stronger feeling of resolution and life-affirmation in this film than the others.

 

He said; Well, I don’t think I’m selling out or making a particularly Hollywood film. Also, the term — not to take you too literally — “life-affirming”: Is it “life-affirming” or “life-observing” to say that tragic stuff happens and we move on?

I also want my films to be charming and entertaining. As for the ending of the film, rhythmically this wouldn’t have worked, but if I could’ve found a way to end the film with that close-up of Clooney on the boat, where he delivers that Wild Bunch-style line: Well, I guess that’s it… (laughs)

This is the husband’s film. It is about how he reacts to events, news, his family, his land…Clooney is fine but honestly unless there are big moments where he is angry or crying he’s kind of hard to read. Those big moments must have led to his nominations as best actor because frankly I was underwhelmed by his performance.

 

Clooney became a household name and bonafide sex symbol. When he made the jump to the big screen, Clooney alternated between big-budget studio films and smaller, more politically minded fare. He earned Oscar nods for directing and co-writing Good Night, and Good Luck, became an Oscar winner for his supporting role in Syriana, and earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination for 2011′s The Descendants.

Critic Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post says, A tough, tender, observant, exquisitely nuanced portrait of mixed emotions at their most confounding and profound — all at play within a deliciously damp, un-touristy Hawaii that’s at once lush and lovely to look at.   It wasn’t that he was just nuanced – there was a fill-in-the-blank quality. If one could insert themself into his experience, he becomes you, and maybe that feels like good acting – who knows? Mark Twain said; “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Look, many people think his acting here is worthy of best actor – I do not.

 

This is a slow film, which is fine by me. Like slowly peeling an onion there are layers. There are no explosions or car chases. There are no secret agents, no objects transforming themselves, no guns. The landscape is beautiful, there is grittiness in Matt’s children, the infidelity news is disturbing and given the wife’s unconscious state – complex. Selling the ancient land – is full of meaning. A lot is going on here.

Matt’s daughters are disturbed. The eldest is a drug addict and alcoholic. Before the mother’s coma, she was sent away to a boarding school. She has a boyfriend who is irreverent and great in my books. An acrid older relative, Matt’s father-in-law, punches him. The youngest daughter acts out after her mother’s coma by bullying a schoolmate. Her method of ‘coping’ is contentious.

On Rotten Tomatoes Critic Luke Buckmaster says, The film’s tone is quaint but the story dramatic…Yes.

Certain plot-elements are resolved but not tied up in a neat bow. The status quo is pushed and while this is not an edgy film, there is resistance to many dominant ways of being. It was a very good film but not the best film out there for sure.

 

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