Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Descendants - Movie Review

The Descendants - Drama "Lite"

A couple of weekends ago, I went on a movie frenzy. I had been falling behind on my movie going and I had to take drastic measures. Within five days I saw seven movies. The last film I saw, just hours before The Golden Globes, was The Descendants.

This was an odd little movie that delivered some great performances by George Clooney and Shailene Woodley, yet failed to connect on an emotional level.

Basically, I cry at the drop of a hat. I cry at almost everything, yet through this entire film I was dry as bone. It all felt very antiseptic to me. The story always stayed right on the surface and never really sunk its teeth into the subject matter.

Clooney plays Matt King, a barely present father who is thrust into the forefront of parenthood and the present state of his marriage, when his wife slips into a coma after a boating accident.

Through this tragedy, Clooney is also dealing with the stress of generations of family land owed in Hawaii. His family currently lives a very nice life in Hawaii but if he decides, along with a vote of relatives, to sell the pristine acreage, everyone will have a nice chunk of change. How this part of the story unfolds gives us our measuring tool for Matt’s personal growth. Who should they sell the land too, what will become of it, did he ever really appreciate it? What has this land meant to who he is as a person, and of course, hence the title, those who came before him?

Maybe there would have been a stronger emotional impact if I knew the mother/wife character even just a little bit. It was hard to feel the difficulty of their situation, yet this technique worked fine in The Big Chill so maybe that would not have helped.

Clooney gave a great performance and so did Shailene Woodley. I watched two full seasons of The Secret Life of the American Teenager and it was quite a surprise to find that she didn’t annoy me at all. I guess she is a good actress!

The best comparison I can make for this film is that it reminds me of As Good As It Gets. This, like The Descendants, was a good film with a talented cast. Both films however, got treated as much more than they really were. I walked away from both films being entertained, but the awards and accolades were a bit much. So, not a bad movie, but certainly not a great one. Strong acting, decent plot but, not award worthy.


Castor said...

Weird that you didn't connect at all with this movie. It seemed like a lot of people were sniffling through the "bye my love, my pain, my joy" part. I didn't cry but I thought it was well done.

Overall, the movie felt a bit heavy-handed. I would have liked to see more of Clooney's trademark dry humor and certainly it did feel like it wasn't as great as all the hype made it out to be.

Colleen said...

I think my disconnect was that no one really seemed that broken up to lose this women. They had issues and it was difficult, but it didn't seem like anyone was heartbroken. Instead it was, "man I can't believe I have to deal with this."

Chris said...

Good review. I agree, because what the wife had done and the lack of screen time for her (2 minutes), we don't have feelings for her, and that also is the case for the Clooney character, he doesn't wholeheartedly love his wife due to her history, so its tough to know what to feel. I had a tough time caring about the cast, and the ending was predictable. A pity, as A Payne is one of my all-time-favorite directors no less. Better luck next time, Alexander.

Runs Like A Gay said...

Oddly I never expected much of an emotional connection to the characters based on Payne's previous work.

That said the final scenes, especially when Robert Forster stroked Elizabeth's hair nearly broke my heart.