johnlink ranks THE DESCENDANTS (2011)

Here we go with yet another found-footage horror film. Kidding, kidding. I’ve seen a lot of horror this October (along with some film that are just horrible), so its nice to get to a film I’m fairly certain will class up the joint a little bit. I’m a sucker for George Clooney dramas, especially these slightly quirky ones. UP IN THE AIR was, arguably, my favorite film of 2009 so I had some high expectations going into THE DESCENDANTS.

I watched THE DESCENDANTS (2009) on 10.19.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

This was not a disappointing experience. This is a nice film, a smart film, a film with plenty of heart. While it may not have landed with the impact of some other titles in this genre, I walked away from THE DESCENDANTS feeling like I just watched something of great quality.

This is the story of Matt King (Clooney), who starts the film with his wife in a recent coma after a boating accident. He ill-suited to care for his two daughters, 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller) and 17-year-old Alex (an excellent Shailene Woodley). When Matt discovers his wife may have been hiding a secret, they investigate. The family starts as a somewhat estranged unit (he describes them as an archipelago), and must find a way to come together.

We have plenty of films in the library which are love-letters to New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, etc. But we don’t have all that many which feature Hawaii as a character. In this film King (as his name implies) has a bloodline directly tied to Hawaiian royalty. And while he doesn’t look native, doesn’t speak like a native, and certainly does not live like a native, much of thematic thrust of this film concerns the definitions of family and loyalty. The end of this film is not surprising, but it is satisfying.

Speaking of the end of the film (without giving anything away): The last shot, which the credits roll over eventually, is very stoic, very still. This works as a counter-point to the rest of the film when the King family is constantly moving. Mom on her boats, Dad is seen running often, flying often. Kids hop islands without much thought about what they are doing. Everybody in this film is constantly on the go (which is foiled by Mom’s condition). Even their property is in a state of movement. It seems, then, that this is a movie about learning to be still.

THE DESCENDANTS is a family drama with a really good script and great lead actors. Clooney is his normal, exceptional self. Woodley (of TV’s SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER) is surprisingly wonderful. Out of the trappings of ABC Family scripts and cheesy scenarios, she’s free to be a young woman with a definitive voice and demeanor. She balances Clooney really well in this, they really work as a family. Matt Lillard has a small, but important cameo. He has come a long way from a young man in roles which require no seriousness (SCREAM and SCOOBY-DOO) to give some nice moments in an important role of a well-acted film.

Glad I finally saw this. It’s one I wanted to catch in theaters, so I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to get to it. Certainly worth seeking out.





~ by johnlink00 on October 20, 2012.

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