Monday, June 18, 2012

The Descendants

It was pretty obvious when watching it why The Descendants was nominated for Best Picture. It's a slow movie that is largely about complicated family issues and had a lot of gorgeous cinematography.

That is not to say that it wasn't a good movie, I actually did like it. But it isn't one that I would recommend to just anyone. I think it would take a particular kind of mood to enjoy this movie, and a particular kind of person.

Part of the thing with this film is that nobody in it is really all that likable. George Clooney's character comes close, and his youngest daughter doesn't seem too off kilter. But his comatose wife comes across as a terrible person, his eldest daughter is a recovering drug addict (apparently, we only hear the aftermath of this). His cousins are all chomping at the bit to cut down a beautiful piece of untouched land in order to make a swanky resort for the uber-rich just so they can get rich from it.

One thing that bugs me about movies is that I can't remember the last time a film had a developer or the possibility of a development that was actually a good thing that would solve problems and help people. Development is always evil. Which is problematic when you're household is like mind and relies on development and new housing construction to pay the bills. Not to get rich, to survive. Development in and of itself isn't a terrible thing, and The Descendants walks this line relatively well. Mostly because they're clear about what will happen to the land: it won't be made into a public park, or low income housing. It will become a swanky resort that most people couldn't afford to look at, let alone enjoy.

But in the end, the struggle about the land is only a metaphor anyway, though a strong one. The story is about a dad struggling to figure out how to be a dad as his wife lies dying in a coma after a boating accident. Then, of course, he also has to figure out how to cope with discovering his dying wife was having an affair. How do you reconcile with a person who can't even respond to your anger?

For people who have lived through situations like these, there are parts of the film that are really hard to watch. And I think that became my problem, the movie was so realistic about some things that it was reminding me how much it hurt me when people I cared about lashed out and became defensive in order to cope with tragedy. It just hit too close to home I guess.

While the characters aren't completely likable, they are very real. There aren't really a lot of stereotypes to be found, and even the doofus of a boyfriend that joins the family on their outings isn't what he seems on the surface. Everybody is complicated, just like real people.

It is a good film, it deserved it's nomination for Best Picture. Just don't watch it if you're not ready to be a little upset at life in general.