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The Descendants - quick review

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#1 of 3 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted December 03 2011 - 03:57 PM

Director Alexander Payne returns to cinema with "The Descendants", a quirky family dramedy set in Hawaii, which deals with a mother in a coma, and a father (Matt) who isn't quite emotionally equipped to handle the reins of fatherhood for a 10-year old daughter (Scottie), and a 17-year old daughter (Alexandra, played by Shailene Woodley, who'll most likely nabbed a best supporting actress nomination and be this year's Jennifer Lawrence). George Clooney does good work as Matt, and will nab a best actor nomination (not sure he'll win, though). The film's title deals with inherited land from George's family that needs to be sold off due to the perpetuity laws, and he's faced with deciding between 2 offers, and facing quiet pressure from various factions of his extended family. And while he's dealing with the business end, he's been coping with a wife in a coma from a boating accident, and adjusting to being the actual parent in the family, as his wife did most of the child-rearing in their family. There are signature bits of Payne's humor sprinkled in the film, though it's almost always kept on low simmer, as George and his family go on a quest to deal with revealed secrets of his wife's own indiscretions, which sandbag Matt emotionally, but he presses on, even as the land deal decision looms in the very near future. It's a solid film, but I just didn't quite love it, but it's worth seeing this holiday season with your family at matinee prices. Just be warned, some foul language from Matt's children does show up in a few scenes. I give it 3 stars, or a grade of B.
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#2 of 3 ONLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted December 10 2011 - 02:04 PM

I hated hated HATED About Schmidt, and I've consequently stayed away from anything Alexander Payne related ever since. But my friend and I were headed to the movies and everything else had either already been seen or didn't look promising. I really really enjoyed it. The performances are better than the film. The whole real estate plot line only really serves two purposes: 1) to give us a wonderful travelogue of some of the most beautiful sights in Hawaii, and 2) to reinforce a broader idea of family, the importance of blood and shared heritage over generations. There were some nice moments borne out of it, but mostly I felt like it was a distraction from what was going on with this father and his two daughters. George Clooney turns in a terrific performance as a father who's never really fathered. He takes them on with without the distortions of years of emotional baggage or fights. It's more or less a blank slate. The actresses playing the two daughters are phenomenal. If you'd told me that the "Secret Life" girl had a performance like this in her, I'd never have believed it. She's essentially Clooney's co-star for the vast majority of the film, and she goes toe to toe with him scene after scene. Amara Miller gives an unbelievable performance as the 10-year-old daughter. There are a few scenes where she has to draw from an incredibly deep well of emotion, and most kids simply don't have the life experience to find that place. It's easy to get a little kid to cry. I've never seen a child actress achieve what Miller has here. It wells up from somewhere deep inside, and she doesn't quite let it get to the surface. Just broke my heart. Robert Forster also turns in a memorable performance as Clooney's character's father-in-law, beautifully capturing a no bullshit man's man grappling with the loss of his beloved little girl. A truly beautifully rendered character. Judy Greer breaks away from comedy to turn in an uncharacteristic performance as the wife of the Other Man. The final shot moved me very nearly to tears, capturing an incredibly happy ending with a scene that is completely ordinary.

#3 of 3 ONLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted December 17 2011 - 12:40 PM

I loved the film and the performances.  I thought the ending of the film was dead on as to how a family either bonds together or falls apart after a family tragedy.




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