Give It A Try If… You really can’t find anywhere better to eat your popcorns.
Steer Clear if… You want to do yourself a favour.
Five Oscar nominations, including for Best Movie; 90% rating on my go-to website for film reviews; the (albeit partial) appreciation of fellow bloggers I have lately come to trust; one could say that “The Descendants” was shaping up to be a triumph of big-screen drama this year. By all means, my resulting disappointment was equally as grand.
The Wallet of the Matter
Absentee Dad surrounded by stoned teenagers and other variously bizarre characters gets reality check, bestows deep looks from multiple angles, does some road movie, then some beach stuff, and scoops an Oscar on the way home. This is all you really need to know about this shameless attempt at replicating “Little Miss Sunshine”‘s indie success with a higher budget – with the sole aim of turning higher profits. No wonder its hero is a rather controversial Mr. Clooney, a former tv doctor who basically sells coffee, then generates a case study in one of 2012’s most hyped business books, tries to compensate by directing mature, politically compromised movies, which incidentally allow for the sublimation of much-gossiped, apparently scandalous (ah, the state we are in) sexual instincts. I should have known better, while I made the mistake of approaching this self-indulgent, Kleenex-sponsored empty shell with an open heart. What a waste! And what a nagging sense of guilt: I still have to find a proper way to make up for it with the friend I naively dragged along.
The Compliments Ain’t Over Yet
It was clear to me after the first Alzheimer pantomime, and became clearer by the minute as dialogues became less and less sustainable and situations less believable: what really worries me in a movie like “The Descendants”, even more so for the inexplicable recognition it has been getting, is the shallowness of references. The image of our world they convey. The lazy resort to clichées in absence of the stuff that hearts are made of. Scenes like Clooney shouting some sort of male-declined version of last week’s Letters column on “Cosmopolitan” to the unconscious body of his injured wife, which in a normal world would simply beg for editors’ mercy, are brought center stage to embroider an otherwise bland, fake-low-key narrative.
A Glance to the Context
I will not take this chance to open the debate on the turn certain sectors of mainstream culture are taking thanks to globalization. Nor will I delve into the current rebalancing in the unfortunate conflict between a battered Europe and the re-upcoming Unites States (sometimes a questionable opinion leader, otherwise full of sensible people who surely get certain phenomena as little as I do).
I will refrain from any of this, altough my hands are itching. Because I simply cannot believe that a movie like this should be getting all this praise, both from the media and the grassroots. Well you know what, I am not buying it. I am not buying this product which was clearly developed backwards, from commercial outcome to divine inspiration. And what about the sappy, repetitive soundtrack? One thing is for sure, after this I will sooner memorize the whole Mel Gibson filmography than set my foot in Hawaii for as long as I will carry this name. And I say “Rise, Audience: stand up, show some pride and deny citizenship to manufactured success stories that distract you with tears to draw a few coins out of your pockets.” There you go. Now sue me and let’s get done with it, for cinema’s sake.
UPS Score (Utmost Perfection Scale): 4/10 + booo