Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Familial Bliss and Woes

Film Review: The Descendants
Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller

I never thought I would be writing a film review of an English movie, and that too of one which has earned high acclaim from all quarters--awards,  accolades et al. I haven't watched too many Hollywood flicks, so anyone reading this blog please note this disclaimer sentence :). After watching Descendants, I wanted to write about it, talk about it and go for a second viewing. I guess thats what great movies do to us. They leave an impact on our minds with their sheer simplicity. And like going back to a crazy, uncanny lover who is irritable and loving at the same time, these movies and their magic grow on us. We never get enough of them. Some of my all time favorites are Serendipity, As Good As It Gets, The Sound of Music, A Walk to Remember, and Before Sunrise.
The Descendants hit the theatres in India around the same time that Agneepath did. I was sure of writing a review on Agneepath as it was a Hrithik movie. That was before I watched the movie. In the last couple of years, I've enjoyed watching Hrithik Roshan movies and writing about them. But Agneepath didn't allow me a hattrick on Hritthik reviews :(. It was a royal let down. After Guzaarish and ZNMD, Hrithik looked such a misfit in Agneepath as Vijay Dinanath Chauhan that I wanted to leave the theatre before the interval! The only good reason...rather evil reason why one can sit through Agneepath is Sanjay Dutt alias Kancha. His dreadful guise and deadly acting will freak you out for sure!

Coming back to The Descendants, the story is about George Clooney. And it is such a treat watching him on the big screen. Killer looks, subtle expressions, incompatible acting, undomitable screen presence, sparkling chemistry with co-stars--- Clooney made the movie what it is. The storyline is simple and flows smoothly through well-knit incidents and exotic locales while finely depicting the family life of Matt King (Clooney). The movie revolves round the Matt family and their ancestral land in the Kaua'i island. Matt and his cousins control the family trust that owns these huge acres of land. Matt, the sole trustee of this property decides to sell it off after discussion with his family--all of whom want to sell it off too. Just when the family is ready to seal the deal, the news of Elizabeth's (Matt's wife) accident reaches and the whole family rushes to the hospital. Doctors foresee no chances of recovery and Elizabeth sinks into coma.

Matt suddenly sees his whole world drifting apart. He realizes he had a loving wife he never paid attention to as he was busy building his career in law, his teenage daughter Alex (Shailine Woodley) who is in college and stays in another island in a hostel doesnt want to return home. The younger daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) who is barely 10 is outspoken, brash and every second day teachers in school complain about her. Matt tries to be a good father and gets Alex home. In the meantime, doctors advise Elizabeth cannot recover and life-support should be removed.

There is a twist in the tale when Matt realizes that Elizabeth had an extra-marital affair that he was not aware of. After this, the story takes on a whole new dimension. Natural and spontaneous acting by Alex and Scottie make the story lively and even more interesting. With the entry of Alex's friend Sid (Nick Krause), there are some lighter moments in the story. The characterisation and the ability of each actor to emote the depth of their feelings on screen is fascinating. Whether it is Cloony trying to stalk Elizabeth's lover Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard) or Scottie freely abusing at the top of her voice, or Alex showing her natural authority and suppressed anger on her parents for their ignorance in upbringing--each portrayal is unique and beautiful. Cloony's expressions, whether he is expressing happiness, anger, guilt, disappointment or authority is commendable.

The glimpses of father-daughter relationship is captured very well too. Cloony, Woodley and Miller bond very well onscreen and their chemistry is memorable. Whether strolling on a the beach, sharing an icecream together, or discussing on teaching a lesson to Elizabeth's lover, the father daughter trio create some memorable moments for the audience to take back home. On the other hand, the moments when Elizabeth's old parents go to the hospital to say a final goodbye to their daughter is also very touching.

Another sweet scene to remember is when Elizabeth's friend applies make-up on the coma patient in the hospital to uplift her mood.. mood of the friend who has been sleeping for weeks with no hope of recovery. Only despair and sorrow for her loved ones. 

Hat's off to Alexander Payne for a movie of this stature. 

Family values, bonding, the true worth of ancestral heritage and the significance of the family tree---hold key to The Descendants. Family is not just about loving and caring, it is also about owning responsibillities and making life worthwhile. The Descendants demonstrate all of this and portray them very delicately, so that we, as the audience can savour each moment and let it grow on us.

I would recommend this movie to one and all.


  1. Quite a good review! I like the movie too. Watch Artist, it's awesome!

    -Sabina T

  2. Good one, yet again! Youve aptly captured the pulse of the film.