Monday 5 December 2011

Movie Review: The Descendants

I'm repeating myself. (Repeating yourself is a sign of senility. If I've said that once, I've said it a thousand times.) The best films I've seen do not necessarily involve a car chase scene. The special effects are minimal and the focus is on the story and the characters. Clocking in at 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, it seems to me the professional critics agree with this idea. Yes, this is George Clooney at his best, but the story, the cast, and the characters count to no end for what amounts to in the end as an excellent slice of the human experience.

Mr. Clooney plays Matt King, a lawyer in Hawaii who in a side story is involved in a big family real estate deal. The film starts with his wife sustaining injuries in a boating accident that leave her in a coma. While that might be enough of a trauma for any husband and any family to weather, it is only the start as Matt finds out, from his daughter no less, that his wife had been having an affair. How does Matt cope with such a revelation? How does he deal with being a single parent? How does he manage to get a grip on the rest of his life?

Clooney is terrific as the man, as the parent, who suddenly finds himself in uncharted waters without a clue of how to proceed. As he hunts down his wife's lover, the question is why, what are his intentions? Shoot the guy? Punch him in the nose? Is this some sort of idle curiosity? What would any of us do under such circumstances?

By the way, the eldest daughter has a boyfriend, Sid, who is a bit of a stoner and the character is just hilarious. He has the habit of opening his mouth and saying unfiltered whatever comes to mind. There were a couple of times during the film I was killing myself laughing as Sid with complete naivety or maybe stupidity would say the most indelicate outrageous things. I could feel the entire audience in the theatre gasping then holding their breath as they wondered how those around Sid would react. Very, very funny.

Alexander Payne has three roles in the making of this film as director, co-producer and co-writer of the screenplay. This talented gentleman also has under his belt as both director and co-writer, two other fabulous films: About Schmidt and Sideways. I have seen them both and would highly recommend them. Rotten Tomatoes gave About Schmidt a score of 85% and Sideways 97% and if you couple those films with this one, is Mr. Payne batting (almost) a thousand or what?

Final Word
This is a great film which deservedly gets its high score from Rotten Tomatoes. The story is funny; it is sad. The wife's coma is a tragedy but it is a reminder that the living go on, well, living. No matter what the tragedy, we're all going to have to figure out how to cope and get on with it. I would highly recommend this film. No car chase scenes so be forewarned but a poignant look at the human condition.


Rotten Tomatoes: The Descendants: 89%
Funny, moving, and beautifully acted, The Descendants captures the unpredictable messiness of life with eloquence and uncommon grace.

Wikipedia: The Descendants
The Descendants is a 2011 comedy-drama film based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings. The film stars George Clooney, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard and Shailene Woodley and it was released in the United States on November 18, 2011. It is directed by Alexander Payne, with a screenplay by Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. The film screened at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.


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