6 feb. 2012

My Review: The Descendants (7/10)

¨Goodbye, Elizabeth. Goodbye, my love, my friend, my pain, my joy. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.¨

The Descendants is a good film, but I was expecting much more from this dramedy written and directed by Alexander Payne, the man who brought us About Schmidt and Sideways. I was a huge fan of Sideways, and it had been over seven years since Payne directed another movie so I was highly anticipating this one staring George Clooney. Clooney is a great actor and this role seemed perfect for him. After hearing so much buzz from critics and the Academy about this picture, director, and performance from Clooney, my expectations grew even higher. Perhaps it was this overhype that left me a sensation of incompleteness after finishing watching The Descendants. The story was funny, but the characters weren’t as interesting as most of Payne`s characters were in other movies, and Clooney was great in the lead role, but far from being Oscar worthy in my opinion since I`ve seen far more better performances from other actors this year. Clooney is a natural and he made his performance actually seem real natural, but I thought relatively unknown Shailene Woodley stole several scenes from him. It`s hard not to like someone like Clooney with his charm and charisma, but I don’t think that`s enough to honor him with another Oscar. He did have one strong scene when he was giving his final farewell speech to his dying wife so don’t get me wrong, I did like his performance, I just expected so much more and perhaps those expectations affected my overall perception of the movie. I guess The Descendants actually had me at Payne, Clooney, and Hawaii. It was not as good as I expected, but it was still a lot of fun.

George Clooney plays a wealthy land owner from Hawaii named Matt King. His descendants used to be sort of rulers of a big island in Hawaii and therefore he and his family owned most of the land. They are receiving millionairy offers from several businessmen who want to buy the land and build beautiful resorts or shopping malls. Matt however has decided to make a living as a lawyer and spends most of his time in his office. Clooney tells us all this in voice over as he narrates how his wife had a boating accident and has been lying in a coma for the past three weeks. Meanwhile, he has no idea how to raise his nine year old daughter, Scottie (Amara Miller), who has been causing all sorts of trouble in school and at home. Matt decides it`s time to go bring his seventeen year old daughter, Alexandra (Shailene Woodley), back from boarding school to help him out with Scottie. Alexandra had a big fight with her mother before the boating accident and is kind of in a rebellious stage, but decides to help out her father after realizing that her mom is not going to get better. Alexandra reveals to Matt that the reason she was fighting with her mom was because she was having an affair with another man, who they later find out to be a real estate businessman named Brian (Matthew Lillard). Alexandra and Matt decide they should find a way to confront him and so they travel to another Hawaiian island where Brian is located. Alexandra brings along one of her friends named Sid (Nick Krause) who practically follows them around everywhere not helping out much, although Matt does seek for their advice most of the time.

Payne`s film does work solidly as a decent drama with sufficient comedy to lighten up the dark subject matter of the movie. The characters are interesting, although some of the secondary characters are pretty much one dimensional. It`s still interesting to see how Clooney`s character really doesn’t know what he`s doing most of the time. He is lost, and looks for his daughter`s advice quite often. Most of the comedy comes from Payne`s script which is funny as usual, although the cast also help out a lot. I guess since I`m from South America I`m used to seeing a lot of films dealing with society and family dramas since pretty much every Latin film deals with these subject matters, so it wasn’t something new for me. Hollywood on the other hand isn’t really known for creating these quality dramas so I can see how some of the critics were blown away by this film. But if you consider other foreign films, like this year`s Iranian drama A Separation, then you will notice the difference. What Payne does best however is add some comedy into the mix and it always works well for him, although this time I thought it wasn’t up to par with his previous film Sideways. The Descendants is a good movie, with some strong performances, but I`d rather watch his previous films before watching this again. The one good thing going for this movie is the beautiful scenery set in Hawaii. I recommend this film, but just don’t go into it as hyped as I was because you could be disappointed.

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