Feb 4, 2012

The Descendants [2011/2012]

I had low expectations going in to see The Descendants- the trailer and the synopsis suggested an Oscar bait (like others noticed), George Clooney kept winning awards for a role that didn't seem that complicated (and taking away recognition that should have been for Michael Fassbender's performance in Shame) and its general heavy coverage just set me off, I wasn't keen on seeing it.

But I did and I was wrong- The Descendants is a fantastic movie. Although I still do think it is an Oscar bait, I have to say that I was impressed and moved by the story and the performances. George Clooney and Shailene Woodley shine in this Hawaiian drama about a broken up family coming together after the mother's accident. 

I really liked the metaphor that Matt used at the beginning: "My family seems like an archipelago. We are part of the same group, but we are still islands- separate and alone. And we're slowly drifting apart." He is right and that is the perfect way to describe the situation at the beginning of the story. Certain details emerge as we move along and new complications stir up the quiet life of the island, but overall, what is so appealing about this movie, is the fact that it's realistic- this can happen to anyone; what makes it even better is the character development and the storyline: nothing is forced or too dramatised; you can believe it. 

There's one moment in the film where Alex tells Matt that her mother was cheating on him- that specific scene and his genuine reaction to the news made me realise that the awards coming Clooney's way are not for nothing- I loved his performance, not only in that part, but overall- sometimes, like I said before, playing a real, normal, simple character is harder then portraying a crazy man. Better than Fassbender in Shame? Not really, but I wouldn't mind if George did won!

The Descendants has some beautiful, yet very simple filmmaking elements that make the movie even better: the use of hawaiian music, the cinematography, the clear, steady shots, the scenes where they capture the human expressions, letting us know and understand how the characters are really feeling (Alex crying in the pool, Matt realising the truth in the restaurant, Elizabeth's father saying his last goodbye and so on). The script was very good and it had some wonderful, touching scenes, like the one where Sid talks to Matt about his family, or the moment where the three of them say goodbye to Elizabeth and so on. 

You will find some discrepancies in the storyline: where did Elizabeth's best friends go? How did the cousins react to Matt's decision regarding the land- and what was the purpose of this part of this storyline, anyway? Plus, the sudden mood swings for dramatic effect are a little out of line in some points, but then again, I didn't think they dramatised the story or the characters too much, it is mostly realistic. 

Yes, overall, The Descendants is a good movie, a drama that you will find touching and learn to love as the story progresses. Watch it on video-on-demand or buy the DVD, I think it's worth it!


  1. Alexander Payne's latest just didn't measure up to his past work for me, overlong and predictable, and I felt was tough to care about the characters. The Hawaiian music annoyed me after a while. Clooney's performance was solid, I agree on that! As you can tell, I don't think it should win tons of awards

  2. @Chris: I do agree it was a little predictable, but it worked for me. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think it might be more appealing to women- it's like a fantastic Lifetime movie, with better actors and improved script!

  3. "I really liked the metaphor that Matt used at the beginning: 'My family seems like an archipelago. We are part of the same group, but we are still islands- separate and alone. And we're slowly drifting apart.'"

    That's a great observation. I don't even remember that dialog. Was it during the opening monologue, or did it come later?

  4. @Chip: It was during Matt's flight to see his daughter Alex, if I remember it corectly!

  5. Clooney and everybody else included is great but it’s really Payne who shines as the writer bringing out some funny humor but not without forgetting about the real rich moments of human drama. Good review Aziza. A good film but not as great as I was expecting.

  6. @Dan: I was expecting worse, so I was happy to be proven otherwise! Thanks for dropping by!