Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Descendants

Matt King (George Clooney) is the chairman of the family trust which owns massive piece of land on Hawaii. After his wife suffers from the boat accident, he tries to overcome the pain and re-connect with his two daughters.

As somebody correctly put it, this movie is the living evidence of how flawed the new concept of the Oscars is. Previously, each category had only 5 nominees, strictly, whereas now they include “between 5 and 10”. This resulted in movies being nominated, which are clearly not up to speed with the rest of the nominees, and that only highlights their mediocrity. And yes, the Descendants is one of those movies.

The Descendants is Alexander Payne's latest film since Sideways, based upon the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, and it already snatched a few awards, including Best Picture (Drama) at this year's Golden Globes, along with George Clooney being awarded the Best Actor (Drama) award. And it is nominated for the Oscars along with Hugo, Artist and Moneyball. And the question “Why was it awarded?” still stays in my head.

The distinctive feature of the movie is that it tries to depict life as it is, so that the viewer should be more engaged with what is going on the screen, will associate him/herself easier with the main characters, and laugh at the simple everyday moments captured by the camera. I have to admit – they succeeded. I, personally, was associating myself with one of the main characters, but not with King or the older daughter’s boyfriend, Sid. The whole movie I felt like the dying Elizabeth King, not able to move or regain consciousness, but forced to die slowly and painfully. The movie is annoying in the boredom it manages to inflict. It has clear start but no culmination or catharsis, or indeed anything to keep you alive. 115 minutes of the show felt like 515, endless show of people desperate to present us with drama and emotions, but failing at igniting the passion for the characters.

I won’t say the movie is bad. It has all the right components, very nice storyline, great performance by Clooney and Shailene Woodley as Alexandra King, fantastic director’s work. But there is a very important component missing, something that helps to distinguish between just good and excellent movies; some kind of spark, something that makes you willing to watch it to the end because you are genuinely interested in what is going on. Without this, pretty good components mix together to form a very mediocre movie.

And of course there were high expectations. I expect a very high level from all the Oscar nominees, and this film clearly does not live up to expectations. It is well below the benchmark set up by the main nominees of this year, and even some movies that were not nominated are better. And this high expectations problem is the final piece that turns just mediocre movie into something intolerably mediocre.

I have to say a couple of words about the soundtrack. When I was faced with the boredom, I intuitively started to look for something entertaining, and I thought I found it: the soundtrack to the movie is light Hawaiian music. The problem is: you will listen to exactly the same song for the whole duration of the movie. 115 minutes of exactly the same song. By the end of the film I started to hate it.

VERDICT: Mediocre movie, definitely well below the level of other Oscar nominees.
WATCH: If you are Clooney or Payne fan. Or if you love the Hawaiian music. 


  1. I agree that this was a good movie, but not an Oscar worthy one. I do have to disagree on one thing - I think that even if there were only five nominations that this film would have been one of them. It's the kind of movie that screams "Oscar-bait" and that the Academy just can't seem to resist. Perhaps I am too cynical.

    1. How cynical one should get will become clear during the ceremony. The hope for the fairness is there. Hugo and Artist are my two personal darlings of 2011, so when I saw them in the nominees list I thought that finally Academy would make a choice that "the 99%" would understand. Oh well, some things in this world don't seem to change