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Saturday, April 7, 2012

"The Descendants", familiy troubles of a back up parent

The Descendants

Let's face it. It has to be me. I guess I don't get Alexander's Payne movies. I wouldn't say I don't like them, but they leave me indifferent. Wasn't moved by "About Schmidt", found "Sideways" a lucid entertainment, but not the masterpiece many point out, and sorry, I can't add more than this sort of vague comments to the "The Descendants". An ok film, but not an unforgettable work, or a "movie of the year". 

To me, Payne's best works are still "Election" and "14e Arrondissement", the short-film included on the otherwise mediocre "Paris, Je T'Aime". That little gem of less than 7 minutes is really touching and emotional without needing to force any dramatic premise, even including a subtle dose of humour, as seen from the outside, life is full of comic situations.  

To my understanding, Payne's movies have a lot to do with literature. You can easily see how he cares about their characters, wanting to show the many sides we have as humans. I imagine (haven't read it) the book in which it is based has to be a detailed insight of the King's family, in particular of Matt King's, being, as he says at the beginning of the film, the back up parent, has to deal with parenthood, death, a poignant secret now revealed and heritage (that finally is left almost unexplored). But, being honest, I doubt he succeeds showing on screen all the complexities such detailed characters should require.  

Matt, despite the excellent performance of George Clooney, who does a lot without saying too much, is a blurred character. The spectactor has to assume he had a passive attitude in the past, regarding his wife and daughters. He is overwhelmed by the turn of events. He is confussed, appalled. And then, suddenly, he decides to almost "hunt" for someone (no spoiling). Sure, that drastic change of behaviour/decision, justifies the plot of the film, but really fits with Matt ever-present composure?

Then, we have the two daughters. Of course, every person deals with sorrow in a different way, but again, it was very hard for me to believe the role of Alexandra, the eldest daughter, played by Shailene Woodley. Both her previous, rebellious attitude, as well as her transformation towards a mature woman seems are pretty incredible for a seventeen year-old girl. Many other secondary roles appear, some rewarding, like Judy Greer's, others a bit insipid, as the youngest daughter, and finally, other that only exists to help defining Matt's character, as the one played by Robert Forster.

The tone of the film is also unbalanced. We could argue that being "The Descendants" an emotional voyage, the mix of depressing and pleasant moments is quite "real", but I'm afraid I have to agree with the occasional review saying they didn't feel sincerity on the emotions. I wouldn't say they are false, but they look a bit flat, a bit too polished, a bit off-beat. The whole film flows in a dull dynamic, as it it were "infected" by the peculiar "rythym" of Hawaii. This is, of course my personal opinion, but I couldn't see the grandeur of this film. It might be me.

SCORE: 5,25/10

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