Sunday, February 5

THE DESCENDANTS

(2011) Rated R. 115 minutes. Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer. Directed by Alexander Payne.

The family patriarch struggles to keep his life together after his wife’s life-threatening accident. Suddenly, the “back-up” parent needs to shift gears to become the father – and man – he never thought he could be.






Nicole: Cassidy and I thought: Hey – we like movies, let’s go see one. Simple enough, right? After I stupidly got us lost on the way to not one, but three movie theaters (thanks for the splendid directions Fandango!), we ultimately did make it to see THE DESCENDANTS.
 
Overall, my view about THE DESCENDANTS is that it’s a quiet movie. There are no car chases, no pyrotechnics – it’s a drama that relies on character analysis to hook you in. At its core, it’s an examination of one man’s character as he goes through a major life-changing event: his becoming head of the household, in all respects, after his wife is injured during a boating accident. I won’t ruin the very subtle revelations that take place during his journey, because it’s these life-shattering realizations that drive the movie forward to its tidy, if bittersweet conclusion. Suffice to say, Matt King (Clooney) goes through an emotional hell that affects every aspect of his now-very-complicated life – marriage, fatherhood, career – and he just has to be ready for it, like it or not. How many of us would be able to stand up to his challenges? Few, I’d think. And come out sane afterward, anyway.

elizabeth: Before I start with my two cents, Nicole, can you please fork up the $7.38 I wasted on gas that day? You’re right as always – we can work this out with our lawyers present.

I personally could not fathom anyone ever cheating on George Clooney. But when I saw him in those dad jeans, all bets were off. Then I realized that this actor had left all his charm and likability in the dressing room and became Matt King who suffered much by not being present in his own life. So it would make sense that everything around him would start to implode. And it does. Director Alexander Payne’s selection of actors was brilliant, and I think he waited until each one showed up to auction.

THE DESCENDANTS is about a family in crisis who lives down the block from us. We know them. We could be them. Just so you don’t think that this is as heavy as a Bergman movie, let me assure you that there is humor interlaced throughout. Humor sometimes is a life saver and it was placed perfectly in this story. I can’t say that George ran away with the whole movie because director Payne generously allowed the other actors to shine and in the end this powerful ensemble gave us hope that redemption can sometimes be just a heart wrenching apology away.

And I know this is shallow, but Mr. Clooney showed off some looking great feet in this movie. But see the movie for the fabulous performances.

Nicole: What? You didn’t enjoy the scenic tour of Westbury? Sheesh. Some people are so hard to please.  Annnnnnnnnnnyway, I agree: Who cheats on George Clooney – even if he owns the hugest selection of button-down Hawaiian shirts?

And, you’re right (as much as I hate to admit it): humor thankfully came to the rescue at just the right moments – much like how you turned to me while I was crying during a pivotal scene and said: “Oh, you big baby.” To which, I let out a belly laugh that surely made me look like the most heartless person in the movie theater. And, it’s not just during the heartbreaking moments where Payne delivers comic relief, but during the WTF? moments that occur each time a layer is peeled off the onion revealing just how screwed up Matt’s life has become. And Clooney delivers the performance with Job-like disbelief and endurance. That’s truly what Payne is great at, as he did in Sideways: presenting characters in situations that are at once believable, yet unbelievable – in the sense that: all this cannot be happening to one person. But, sometimes life is just like that, ain’t it? “Troubles come not as single spies, but in battalions.”

Does THE DESCENDANTS deserve all the critical adulation and award nominations it’s been garnering? In some ways I think Payne is a critics’ darling. Let’s face it, he hasn’t made a single flop. So, does that give him an upper hand? Sure. But I do think he coaxed out of Clooney a deservedly award-winning performance. Not so much in the lines he spoke, but in his silent reactions to his unraveling life.

Cassidy, what do you think? Do we have ourselves a Best Picture at the 2012 Oscars, or will The Help steal its thunder, like it did at the SAG Awards? 

elizabeth: I would have loved to have seen Octavia Spencer’s Minny from THE HELP in this movie. She would have slapped some sense back into Matt King (without leaving a mark on dear George’s face). Or baked him one of her infamous cakes.

And you did mention the silent reactions of George’s character that spoke volumes. So Payne ended up doing his version of THE ARTIST? So what move that begins with the word “The” deserves the Oscar? The Way We Were. My bad. Wrong decade. I am going with THE DESCENDANTS. Pssst…George. Call me.

Nicole: You know how difficult it is for me to argue with you, so I will. If THE HELP hadn’t pulled out a win for best ensemble at the SAGs, I’d have said the Oscars would follow suit and keep THE DESCENDANTS’ momentum going. Now, I’m not so sure anymore. I think we have a 50/50 tossup come award night – and the winner will be MONEYBALL, just kidding. Only time will tell.


THE FILM FATALES give The Descendants

 

18 comments:

  1. I adore this blog!!! You guys are hysterical and so entertaining and I've been wondering what movies to see so you will come in very handy. What a great team you make and what a fabulous idea this is! LOVE the glam photos :-)

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  2. Sorry Siskel and Ebert...I wrote a long and interesting reaction to your new blogsite...but for some reason it did not get posted! Dang!
    Anyway it was filled with accolades! You would have had even bigger egos had you been able to read it! I look forward to reading film reviews where you are not on the same side of the aisle! That being said...The Help and Descendants are two films that cannot be faulted! Love this blog! Carry on girls! Carry on! I am saving this post to my documents...so my words are not wasted AGAIN..on a Cantankerous Computer that refuses to allow me to opine! Alas...I will attemt to post this again!

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  3. Thanks Bonnie and Dorothy. Glad you like the review. Come back again. We may not be so nice next time. :-) elizabeth

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    1. nancymeryl@yahoo.comFebruary 11, 2012

      What a wonderful blog. This will be the next one on my list to view!
      Nancy

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  4. Dear Film Fatales --
    You have me reeling (ha ha) from the charm and wit you bring to all things celluloid (not to be confused with that other 'cell' word). Seeing movies on the big screen (all right, maybe they're mostly smaller these days) is a favorite activity of mine, and reading what you have to say about them is clearly going to be a close second. This is a discussion you can't keep me out of. btw, I love the photos. And the Oscar goes to . . . .;-)

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    1. Deborah, we gladly welcome your comments and can't wait to hear from you in future reviews! So glad you're enjoying the blog so far :) Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. --Brilliant Review! I can't wait to see this movie. Clooney can play any role in the universe! Even w/ old daddy pants on....

    I adore the photos of you guys. OMG. You chicks Rockkk.

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    1. Danke, Danke, Danke -- Miss Chick!

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  6. Jehudith CohenFebruary 11, 2012

    I love this blog and can't wait to read more reviews. Also love your Marilyn Monroe/Jane Russell get-ups. You captured "the look" perfectly!

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    1. Aww, shucks, thanks Jehudith! Watch for more cheeky photos soon!

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  7. I saw this movie last weekend and came out of it not sure why all the hoopla about it, though I do love George Clooney and thought the actress who plays his teen daughter quite good. I also wondered why anyone would cheat on him. But your review, which I found quite enjoyable to read as I like your banter, put the film in perspective for me. And now, I see that it was quite good, deserving of the recognition it has received. So rare for a film of this genre to be so acclaimed, I might add. Anyway, thanks for the review, ladies. Hopefully, next time you go to the theater you won't get lost. And did someone mention Westbury? Sounds like you're in my old stomping grounds.

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    1. Yep, we're Lawn Guylanders! Thanks so much for the comments! It's funny that you mention you didn't see what all the hoopla was about, cause I came out of the movie originally thinking -- well, I'm not sure this is Oscar material. The more I pondered, I realized it was pretty special in a quiet, moving way. --Nicole

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  8. Hey Nicole - they like us. They really like us.
    the other Film Fatale with the foot fetish.

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  9. Fun post. I haven't been to the movies in over a year. Now I feel like going again, if only to see Clooney's feet. I enjoyed your review. ~Kay

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    1. In over a year! I hope you get back to them- not that there are a lot of great movies out there. But let the Film Fatales help you! yes, George has great feet. :-)

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    2. The Fil Fatale writes:
      "George has great feet." :-)

      Among other things!

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    3. David HughesFebruary 13, 2012

      OK, I admit it. I'm a man and I read "The Help." And I loved it. And I admit it. I'm a man and I read this blog. And I loved it. I'd go to the movies with these two any day.

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  10. I enjoyed reading this blog, let alone viewing some of the scenes... This is a must see! Elizabeth I must say, your humor is terrific. It always makes me laugh. You could be hilarious with a straight face and it makes everything hysterical. Great blog, great personality, great humor!
    Nancy

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