Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Descendants review; a great story that has us ask, "What would we do?"

The Descendants is getting a lot of attention before awards season; especially it's star, George Clooney.  It also has a 90% 'Fresh' rating on RottenTomatoes.com.  The film follows a man with A LOT going on in his life.  A decision that will affect everyone in his extended family is solely on his shoulders, his 17 year old daughter is an alcoholic troublemaker, his 10 year old daughter has an unusual sense of humor, his father-in-law hates him.  Oh and did I mention his wife is in a comma after a boating accident; it's not until she's in the coma does Clooney's character realize she was having an affair with another man.  Whoa; that's a lot going on.  Let's get started!

What I liked about the film:
The Acting
I love awards season because all the big dogs come out and play.  The Summer obviously gave us all the big blockbusters, and now we get to see acting at its best.  Clooney turns in an amazing performance.  The full range of his acting is put on display in this film.  The character has moments where he's furious with his wife in a comma.  Clooney wants to explode on her, but obviously can't.  We feel sorry for him, sympathetic.  The anger subsides and Clooney has to feel sorrow, sadness and regret for the way his marriage limped along.  Brilliant.

The supporting cast was terrific as well.  Shailene Woodley plays Clooney's teenage daughter.  Just after Clooney, she has the most difficult role in the film.  She is the one that has to break the news to her father that her mother was having an affair.  Her character arc is the best in the film.  When introduced to the audience, she is a drunken, disrespectful, troubled teen.  By the end of the family's journey, she has a new perspective on things.  I really enjoyed every scene she was in.  Nicely done.

The Story
I don't usually discuss plots during my reviews, but I'll share a little here.  There is obviously a lot going on during the 2 hour film, but there is one main story line.  The family is on a mission to find the man Clooney's wife was cheating with.  They want to tell him she's in a comma, and offer to let him see her.  There were so many times during the movie I asked myself, "What would I do?"  I wonder if I could handle the news of my wife cheating as well as Clooney's character did.  There is a tense moment when the family could ruin the man's life, but they take the highroad and don't.  The sub-plot (which is where the title comes from) is great.  Family, money, greed, conscience, responsibility, community, all of those things are explored and questioned.  Loved the story!

Hawaii
The setting is a character in the film.  We all know it's beautiful and is a hot travel location.  It was nice to see an entire story unfold on Hawaii.  Usually movies use Hawaii as a vacation spot to take the characters.  Well, Hawaii itself is a character and a major part of the plot.  I loved the subtle history lessons that applied to the descendants.  And it doesn't hurt that Hawaii is a gorgeous state.


What I didn't like about the film:
The Run Time
The only thing I didn't like about the movie was the run time, it's just simply too long.  There were a couple of scenes that could have been cut and the movie would have been just as effective.  With run time, comes slow pacing.  I would have liked to have seen the story move along a little bit faster than it did.  But I understand the need to slow things down and develop every character in the movie.


The verdict:
A great story with terrific acting
Movies are nothing more than stories being told through film.  This was a very interesting, very moving story.  Life is full of surprises, some good and some bad.  We have great things happen to us, and terrible things as well.  The movie shows these characters go through a life changing experience with the mom in a comma.  Even if the audience has never dealt with a family member in a comma, we can still relate.  We can relate with happiness, anger, sadness, because these are feelings we all go through.  Kudos to writer/director Alexander Payne.  His resume includes films like About Schmidt and Sideways.  He knows how to write and direct moves an audience can relate to, and I thank him for that!

1 comment:

Movie Fan said...

I loved this movie as well. I think the release time is perfect, during the holiday, everyone is around their families and they appreciate their families as well.