Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Descendants

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L)  Roger Ebert (4 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 3/4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB review

Roger Ebert's review

The Descendants (Fox Searchlight, directed and screenplay co-written by Alexander Payne along with Nat Faxon and Jim Rash based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmins), is a film that will probably irritate some who may not be able to get past it being a (fictional) story about a Hawaiian lawyer and leading member of a very old Hawaiian family, Matt King (played by George Clooney) who finds himself (as well as his two daughters) in a sudden and unexpected crisis -- the critical injury of his wife Elizabeth (played by Patricia Hastie) in a jet-ski/speed boating accident -- at the beginning of the film.

Yes, Matt King and his family were rather wealthy.  Yes, they lived in Hawaii, paradise.  But perhaps most viewers will give him and his family the benefit of the doubt, when in the beginning voice-over setting-up the story, George Clooney/Matt King declares that given the circumstances that he and his family now found themselves in: "F-Paradise."  Yes, the family's money did give them a few more options that would not be available to most others.  But move around the chess pieces a little, tweak the situation a bit and these could be circumstances that many/most families in the United States or even across the globe could find themselves in..

As such, this family drama is certainly one of the best American films of the year and will almost certainly find itself nominated for a host of nominations for the annual Oscar Academy Awards.  These would include (in a field of 10) an almost certain nomination for Best Picture, an almost certain nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role (George Clooney), an almost certain nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay (Alexander Payne, et al) and possible nominations for Best Director (Alexander Payne) and even Best Supporting Actress (Shailene Woodley) for her role as Matt/Elizabeth King's teenage daughter Alex.

Other performances to note were that of Amara Miller who played Matt and Elizabeth's other (7 year old) daughter as well as that of Nick Krause who played Alex's both "out there, but ..." teenage boyfriend Sid.   Miller is probably too young to get serious consideration for a nomination and Krause, while outstanding, had a role probably too peripheral to get a nod for a Best Supporting Actor nomination.  Robert Forster and Barbara L. Southern playing Elizabeth's parents Scott and Alice "Tutu" Thorson were excellent as well, if again, their characters play more at the edges of the story. And still others at the story's edges step-up and nail their roles as well.  Yes, this film had a great, well directed ensemble cast.

I'd like to say more about the film, but I think I'd truly "spoil" it if I said much more.  There is a key wrinkle that the trailer to the movie already adds: It's Matt/Elizabeth's daughter Alex who tells Matt (her father) that Elizabeth (his wife/her mother) that Elizabeth was cheating on him before the accident.  With this revelation, the crisis that the family faces has been fully set up.  I will say that the characters, all of them, were well portrayed and all of the main participants in the story, including possibly _the audience_ do grow.

Parents should note that the language often used by all three of the minors is often quite bad (hence the MPAA's R-rating).  A lot of "f-bombs" are dropped.  But given the circumstances and the way the story plays out, the bad language feels both real and appropriate.  I just found it to be a very well written, well directed and well acted story fully deserving some recognition at Oscar time.

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1 comment:

  1. Father, I have not been able to forget this family's tragedies. Its persistence in my memory says something and even recommends this film. I even think of the King family as if they are real. It was all masterful.