So, the Descendants are out today and like all of you, I can’t wait to go to cinema and see it. But wait a minute… I’ve seen it already, few months ago during London Film Festival…Of course, being so excited about starting the website and then seeing all the other films, I somehow managed not to write a review for it and not to save it somewhere on this computer, so now, I have to improvise a little counting on my not so fresh memories of the film. So before I see it once again, here are 5 things I can remember I love about the Descendants:
1. George Clooney
This one seems a little too obvious, but the truth is,although I’ve always liked George Clooney as an actor, during his handsome roles in big budget productions, such as Oceans’ Eleven or Batman, I found him kind of…uninteresting. He was simply George Clooney in disguise.
As soon as I saw him in Up in the Air, something has changed…and it changed a lot. Suddenly he ceased to be this handsome guy and instead became a handsome guy with the past. Yes, he still looks hot, but we can see the wrinkles on his poster face.
In the Descendants he provide us with a performance like no other. He doesn’t wear a suit anymore, and he doesn’t flirt with the hottest girls in the room. Instead he actually is the rejected and desperate one. He makes the character warm and easy to identify with, and we want to follow him and sympathise with him even when his anger reaches over the top level which in the situation that I don’t want to reveal, is a little morally confusing. It is a great performance, definitely worth Golden Globe and this year’s oscar (however, I still don’t know if I prefer his or Dejardin’s performance), and to me George Clooney can just take over the cinema and be in every indie comedy drama there is. And god, I would watch them all.
2. Matt’s (George Clooney) reaction to the ‘discovery’
In the Descendants our main protagonist, Matt King finds out that his wife who has been in coma after a boating accident, had an affair with a estate agent. From this revelation in this unique and tragic situation, the script could go anywhere. Matt could have just forgotten about it having his wife in coma, or simply try to clear his wife’s image and ignore the facts. Maybe remain depressed until the day he dies, but basically, it is easy to think (especially in a pitch perfect world of film) that this is the information that under these circumstances should be ignored. Instead, Matt’s reaction is probably the most human and even more, man like. I won’t tell you how exactly he reacts, but because of this, our view on Matt King changes instantly and so does the whole atmosphere of the film. It’s a little unpredictable, and definitely bitter sweet, but how human it is. And I simply love it.
3. Matt’s monologue (I promised it’s the last Clooney thing on the list)
I won’t lie, I’m pretty sensitive viewer when it comes to sad, yet subtle scenes, and the Descendants has probably one of my favourite touching moment in the modern cinema. It is the monologue that Clooney delivers to his wife in coma after his discovery and not long before the whole film ends. These are the words of the hurt man, a man who suffered one of the most horrible things that can happen in a long term marriage. It is a speech of regret, anger, love and forgiveness. It has this unique, imperfect beauty and warmth and intimacy that can rarely be achieved on screen. One of the most touching scenes I have ever seen.
4. The Cast…and the crew
I love it how the Descendants manages to show us all the different types of characters each of them having many different faces without being stereotypical. It’s easy to divide the supporting characters into bad and good ones, or intelligent and stupid, but in this film, everyone has a second layer, and we are often surprise by the stories of people whose personalities we normally tend to underestimate (Sid, Matt’s brothers). All the performances in the film are simply outstanding, especially that of Shailene Woodley. There is a chemistry between the characters and the familiarity we want to engage in.
Of course all of it wouldn’t be possible if not the amazing Alexander Payne’s direction. He took his time after the Sideways before he made the Descendants and it was definitely a time well spent. I liked the Descendants more than Sideways, because I could identify stronger with one character rather than follow four of them. Alexander Payne is more local this time and he focuses on the detail more, slowly uncovering different aspects of his characters’ personalities and sometimes just letting the atmosphere cool down so we can simply observe their lives in the less dramatic background.
I love the camera work in the Descendants, and how although it manages to give us a few wide shots of beautiful Hawai, it doesn’t show off the location and rather focuses on its universality than uniqueness. Technically, the Descendants is beautiful.
5. I want to see it again
Although it might not sound like anything one would expect as a number five on my list, I think that it is a pretty strong element of a movie. If after watching it, knowing the story with all its twists and revelations, a viewer wants to see (desperately) the same film again, this is a one big compliment for a director. And yes, mr Payne, I would love to see your film again. And again.