The Descendants (US, 2011)

Happy families

Trailer are often extremely poor as they show far too much of the narrative; despite this are probably the most effective form of marketing as, in cinemas, they show to a captive, target audience. Typically The Descendants‘ trailer (see here) gave far too much away but, it transpired, was also entirely misleading about the tone of the film. I should sue but this is an excellent movie. The trailer suggests an emphasis on the comedic, but the tone of the film is darker. That’s not to say there aren’t funny moments: Clooney running in beach shoes for instance.

Central to the film’s success is, of course, Clooney’s widely-feted performance. I’ve long admired Clooney, not only a fine actor, but because he also makes many interesting films. In some ways, when for example compared to the corporate malfeasance in Michael Clayton, The Descendants is slight. It’s focus is on the dynamics of family life headed by the ‘back up’ parent (Clooney) in the absence of the mother. Nevertheless, the melodrama of family relations is as important as revealing corruption in business and political life (see Syriana).

Particular mention should be given to Shailene Woodley as the protagonists’ elder daughter who aids in him in his quest to find out about his wife’s infidelity. She manages to combine the difficult role of bratty teen with mature-beyond-her-years understanding extremely well.

If you like Alexander Payne’s work, such as About Schmidt (2002) and Sideways (2002), then The Descendents will probably appeal to you in its offbeat, heartfelt probings of human vulnerability.

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3 Responses

  1. I saw:” The Descendants” [and check the spelling] today and enjoyed it in the company of a relative who had recently lost her sister so there were some toe curling moments in the ashes scattering scene.But the jokes were good and the two teenage kids were plausibly both awkward and charming.
    George was George but this was a better film than “The Ides of March” despite the excellence of Ryan Gosling.

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