Thursday, May 10, 2012

Oscar-winning ‘Descendants’ may not have been Oscar-worthy


Matt (George Clooney) spies on a man he thinks may have
had an affair with his wife in "The Descendants."
Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Oscar-winning film “The Descendants” is about Matt King (George Clooney), a workaholic husband and father whose life gets turned upside down when his wife, Elizabeth, is put into a coma due to a boating accident. Suddenly, he realizes that he hasn’t been there for his wife or his two daughters and vows to do better if Elizabeth would only “wake up.”

Matt’s situation goes from bad to worse when the doctors tell him that his wife, who is on life support, will never recover. He picks up his older daughter, Alexandra (Sharilene Woodley) from college so that she can say her “goodbyes” to her mother and is met with one angry girl. It turns out that Alexandra is aware that her mother was having an affair and confronted her about it just before she went back to college. His younger daughter, Scottie (Amara Miller), is too young to understand what is happening around her. (She turns in a photo album full of pictures of her mother on life support as an art project and bullies another girl in school.) Matt also has to deal with his wife’s father, who thinks the world of her but doesn’t like him in the least and Sid (Nick Krause), Alexandra’s loser boyfriend. All of this mess happens in the beautiful surroundings of Hawaii. What a life.

At the beginning of this film, there isn’t much to like in the main characters. The wife is in a coma, the father is admitting that he has been a bad husband and a “back up” or “understudy” father, and the teen daughter has a mouth like a sailor. However, it is worth sticking it through to see how each character changes. A special moment comes when Matt sees another side to Sid and realizes, without saying so, that he could end up being a surrogate father to the man-child.

“The Descendants” won an Oscar for Best Writing Adaptation and was nominated for Best Motion Picture in 2012. While a good film, it is debatable if it was really Oscar-worthy. It is considered a comedy/drama, but there is a lot more drama than comedy. Clooney of course is great, but the story is pretty unrealistic and drags a bit. There is more than a bit of harsh language, though some may be justified given the movie’s themes. The movie ends on a fairly positive and yet empty note.

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