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The Descendants

The Descendants

What She said:

She

George Clooney as a father?  For some odd reason I find it very hard to believe.  Ok, maybe the reason isn’t really that odd.  The guy is a total player, and doesn’t seem to have a paternal bone in his body.  I sympathize, I really do, but that doesn’t mean I’m buying the thought of him as a husband and a father for one minute. 

The Descendants puts Clooney in this beautiful Hawaii setting, where he plays Matt King, a man whose struggling to keep his family on track while his wife slips deeper and deeper into an irreversible coma.  She’s been vegetative for almost a month, and it’s been confirmed that she’ll never come out of the state.  King has to break the news to his two troubled daughters, aged 10 and 17, and the rest of his family and friends.  He’s also struggling with his own feelings regarding his wife’s impending death.  They weren’t exactly the most loving couple, and she’s had indiscretions that aren’t endearing her to him, even in her final moments.  Oh yeah, there’s also this looming family real estate transaction that’s worth millions to King and his cousins.

So yeah, King has a lot going on; lots and lots of emotions at play.  Actually, it seems everyone in this movie is emotional and quite troubled.  Both of King’s daughters have problems.  The younger one is acting out as a bully and just plain being weird, particularly for a child of her age.  And the eldest has drug and alcohol problems.  She really resents her mother, so there’s some rage there.  King himself seems stuck in this limbo, should he scream or should he break down crying?  There’s a bit of both.

The movie, while pretty interesting to watch, suffers from a few flaws.  For me, some of the humor just fell flat.  Dark comedy can be difficult to execute, and it didn’t come through successfully at all times.  Also, with everyone having such deep problems, it was hard to find someone to root for.  I guess Matt King is the one to get behind, but it’s made pretty clear in the beginning that he’s not exactly the most attached husband.  At least he’s trying, a bit.  And then I come back to actually believing George Clooney in this role.  I’ll say, he pretty much pulled it off, but I found the moments where he was actually crying a bit cheesy.  It just looked like he was trying really, really hard. 

The Descendants was fairly entertaining, although a bit long.  Overall, I found it decent.

Thumbs mostly up. 

 

What he said:

He

The Descendants is about a man named Matt (George Clooney) who is in the midst of dealing with a tragedy. His wife Elizabeth is in a coma from a boating accident and he is having difficulty raising his children without her. To make matters worse, he recently found out her chances of recuperating are virtually nonexistent. When told of this situation and asked what his options are, he is told there aren’t any. Her living will states that per her wishes she is not to be kept alive by artificial means if she were to ever become brain dead. The doctor basically tells Matt to use this time tell family and friends and say his goodbyes.

The rest of the movie is basically about just that. Matt, his daughters Scottie and Alex, and Alex’s friend Sid spend most of the rest of the movie visiting people and breaking the news to them. There’s a few monkey wrenches thrown into their plans along the way, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you.

Oh and there’s this whole thing with some land his family owns. Matt is a lawyer and wealthy man. He’s a part of a group of people who own some of the biggest, untouched piece of land left in the area. He is in charge of the whole thing. Him and a bunch of his cousins are on the verge of making a decision on which investor to sell to. It’s the talk of the town. Some people want the deal to go through because they think it will generate revenue. Others want the land preserved. It comes into play with the main storyline later on, but I’m still not sure how I feel about this aspect of the storyline. I’m not sure it felt connected to everything that way it as intended.

To be honest with you, I’m still not sure about I feel about the movie in general. It’s about a very sad event their lives and how they handle moving onto the next chapter. That next chapter isn’t just about closure or acceptance, but a rather big change for Matt and his daughters. Matt isn’t very active in his daughters’ lives. He works a lot. He is a wealthy man, but doesn’t believe in overindulging. He doesn’t want his daughters to be spoiled rich kids, so that’s why he continues to work. So in addition to preparing to say goodbye to his wife and help his daughters with this as well, he also has to become a father. This all sounds like some deep stuff, right?

Well I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s just something weird about this movie. The way the characters behave and react to things around they just didn’t seem very real. The only one who seemed to react like a normal human being was Matt’s father-in-law Scott (Robert Forster) and he was an ass hole. I was kind of bothered by that. I understand everybody isn’t the same and not everyone reacts the same to situations, but these characters were so passive it seemed unbelievable. It also felt a little preachy. I don’t mind a movie having a message, but it was laid on so thick here and I simply wasn’t buying the way it was delivered. It actually started to take me out of the movie. I wasn’t watching a bunch of people who were simply different from me, but I was watching something I didn’t believe at all.

I’m shocked this was nominated for as many awards as it was. Besides what I mentioned above, I didn’t care for most of the performances. Aside from a few (and I do mean few) touching moments here and there, Clooney gave as wooden as a performance as I have ever seen. This guy has a following and I’m convinced that is what gets him nominations, because I’m never all that blown away by his actual performances (and browsing around some message boards I’m not the only one either). I haven’t seen every movie he’s ever been in, but he tends to bore me. In addition to this, I also found him pretty bland in Solaris, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Oceans 11. I thoroughly enjoyed his performance in From Dusk Till Dawn, but most of the rest of the time he comes off kind of dull. Sorry George.

Shailene Woodley was decent with what she was given as Matt’s oldest daughter Alex. She was a troubled kid, but I felt like the writer/director’s (Alexander Payne) idea of depth for a teenage character was simply making her curse a lot. I liked what she did, but there needed to be more done with the role.

Nick Krause was pretty amusing as her friend Sid, but the character was so unnecessary that it almost canceled out anything he did to make me laugh.

Alexander Payne obviously likes doing movies about flawed – if not downright unlikable characters – but this one just didn’t work for me. Sideways is about two guys who were not the nicest people in the world, but that movie worked. It felt like it had a certain flow to it. I may not have loved those characters, but I was at least interested in the story. I just couldn’t believe I was watching real people in The Descendants.

Rating: Thumbs down.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on April 23, 2012.