The Review: The Descendants
Blog :Soap Trash
Date: 7/24/2012 12:45:00 PM
The Premise: The wife of a rich lawyer goes waterskiing and subsequently ends up comatose in a hospital. Naturally then, our lawyer, who also happens to own a whole lot of land on one of the Hawaiian isles, has to now hope his wife recovers. He also take care of his daughters in the meantime - something he has no clue about. What he also has no clue about is his wife's infidelity: which his eldest daughter informs him of. So now, the man adds that to his list of headaches and, together with the daughter, goes scampering around Hawaii in search of the wife's lover (just to see his face!) and to find a way to deal with the sea of hatred, jealousy, and what not that assails him.
The Good: The Hawaiian isles - in as many colours as you can imagine. Every frame is awash with the splendour and beauty that ravages the islands. In fact, the beaches are shot with more passion than the story itself. It's as if the director, Alexander Payne, went on a vacation and filmed the entire island. Probably, later, he realized no one will buy the movie without actors and a plot.
The Bad: The plot! It's supposed to be an adaptation of a novel, but it seems more like an afterthought. Which explains why Hawaii and its sister isles and their mesmerizing beauty take centrestage here. If, at any time in the movie, the plot is at its weakest, almost always the camera sweeps over wide expansive views of the ocean or lush green pastures that dress up lonely hillocks across the island. And well, the cinematography is so sophisticated in its take of the place, you end up forgiving Payne for the lack of substance. The reconciliation with the children, coming to terms with life, dealing with infidelity, etc., etc. - we have seen it all before in forms far better than what Payne offers. All he had to do was tighten the script and inject a little life into the goings-on. But instead, Mother Nature is asked to sway us through the numerous dull flat moments that Payne has on display.
The Acting Company: George Clooney looks old and that's all right. But Clooney is deadpan and that definitely isn't. Barring a few scenes, he seems disinterested in the proceedings as if the cheque was already encashed before he arrived on the sets. You can tell he seems to have run out of ways to give his character some soul and credibility.
Judy Greer, in a bit role as the wife's lover's wife, does all she can with the few lines that come her way. Shailene Woodley shows a lot of promise: As the eldest daughter, she emotes just the right feelings mixed with just about enough buckets of tears and a whole lot of skin (by way of being a rebellious child). And Amara Miller whips up a delightful mix of charm and playfulness to make you smile as she essays the role of the youngest daughter.
As for the rest of the cast, they seem quite reluctant to allow for any acting. Perhaps the Hawaii isles are to be blamed for that as well: The islands are so dreamy in their bright shades of earthy green and sunny blue, that the cast may have decided to snore their way through this venture.
The Verdict: Apart from some scenic photography, The Descendants has nothing much to offer. The father-reconnecting-with-the daughters-and-his-own-life-and-land that it set out to tell drowns 20 minutes after it begins. Which is a pity. The movie had it all: the actors, the actresses, an able cameraman, and a terrific director. But, save the cameraman, everyone else seemed to have had a splendid vacation at work. Hawaii and its isles, you see, just have to be blamed for their beauty and this sleepy boring disaster.