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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Descendants - Movie Review



There are hundreds of great stories out there that will never get made in to movies and there are hundreds of movies without a story that never should have been made. The Descendants is a film that is difficult to categorize in that it tells a story so intimate, you almost feel like you have a part in it and yet this is also a vehicle for George Clooney's continued showcase as one of this generation's great actors and movie stars.

Clooney, playing land baron Matt King, shows the audience a new weapon in his arsenal of acting talents as he portrays a man being pulled in just about every emotional direction one can be pulled during the most pivotal time of his and his family's lives. Gone is the smooth and suave actor we are used to seeing, but in this film he is never missed.


At the start of the film, we find Matt's wife Elizabeth laying in a coma after a boating accident. The doctor has informed him that there is nothing more to be done and final preparations need to be made. Meanwhile, he is tasked with making the final decisions on and executing the sale of the highly sought after land his family has owned for generations. The sale of this ocean front property has become the talk of the island and will have an economic impact on all of Hawaii depending on who it is sold to.


Along the way, we meet Matt's daughters Scottie and Alex, who are each quite a bit more than he can handle and together are creating chaos where he needs there to be order. During a heated discussion between Matt and Alex, it is revealed that Elizabeth had been cheating on him up until the accident that put her in a coma and she had been preparing to leave him.

This bit of news news puts Matt on a mission to find and face the man his wife was cheating with just as he is taking on the challenge of informing close friends and family of her inevitable passing. With the girls in tow, this journey becomes a catalyst for change as each of them learns things about their relationships and how their wife and mother has influenced each of their lives.


Normally, when you have a film set on the islands of Hawaii, you can expect glossy postcard-like images with beautiful sunsets, cascading waterfalls, and amazingly colorful flowers as far as they eye can see. With this film, you get a muted and natural color pallet with more of a focus on what it would feel and look like for someone that actually lives there. I actually got the sense that this unique view of Hawaii was meant by the director to be a metaphorical character that paralleled how we would view the main character in mood and personality.


Alexander Payne, who has directed such gems as Election and About Schmidt, puts on a showcase for how to realistically portray emotion and honesty in a film. There are times when the film feels a little long and you begin to wonder where its headed, but these minor flaws are easily forgiven. There are so many layered emotions and subtle cues throughout this story, you can't help but get lost in the intimate details and I imagine this is where the cast really found their place in bringing each character to the screen.

I have read and heard an awful lot about how great of a performance George Clooney gives in this film and after seeing it myself, I was honestly not as impressed as others have been. Don't get me wrong, this is a very heartfelt and and honest portrayal of a man going through unspeakable heartache who wills himself through it for the sake of his family, but I feel the true greatness is in the material given to the actor rather than the performance itself.


What really drew me in to this film was a sense of belonging and sharing in the pain, the struggle, and even the laughter that the father and his daughters all endure over the course of the most trying days of their lives. Using exceptional talent and Hollywood star power to tell a story like this was really the smartest thing the film makers could do.

Here's hoping we see more attempts like this down the road.



1 comment :

  1. Great review of the movie! I wholeheartedly agree. 

    ReplyDelete

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