Archive for the ‘Beau Bridges’ Category

The Descendants

03 Dec

The Descendants – Directed and written by Alexander Payne. Mid-Tragedy. A well-to-do landholder in Hawaii faces three directions at once: his wife’s mortal coma, his two daughters, and selling the land. 115 Minutes Color 2011.

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George Clooney is not an actor of high temperament or big effects. Perhaps that is because he is the man who has everything or perhaps it is because he is naturally reserved or phlegmatic. In any case, this quality serves his character’s frugal lifestyle, “Give your kids just enough so they do something with their lives, and not so much that they do nothing with their lives,” is his motto, but he is a busy soul, and he has given his kids no attention at all. When their mother lies on her deathbed he has to herd these two kittens – but they soon herd themselves as they track down the man who was having an affair with their mother just before she died. The girls are well played by Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller. And everyone else is good too: Nick Krause as the tag-along teenager, Beau Bridges as one of the relatives bidding fair to rake in a bundle from the sale of land to developers, Patricia Haste as the moribund wife, Matthew Lillard as the adulterous husband, Judy Greer as his wife. It was especially gratifying to see Robert Forster as the grandfather, a long way from Reflections In A Golden Eye and still an actor doing Oscar worthy work. The piece is structured as high tragedy, with the three children as the chorus and all the obligatory scenes, but it is not written that way. The style is mid-mimetic, and that is quite right, for a movie is what it is. It did not draw a tear. It was not aiming to. And while we all adore George Clooney that does not mean that we sympathize with him, for why should one sympathize with the man who has everything. This providence makes it difficult for him as an actor. What is difficult? It’s difficult for him as an actor to have a difficulty. We adore him because he carries his many benefactions with ease, grace, and humility. But as a character undergoing the horrors of this story, he does not seem to have the daring or technique to invest himself in responding deeply to them. We, of course, can empathize from time to time with his situation here. But his shoes are far too comfortable for any audience member to put themselves in, for since he fits into them all too well, there is room for none of us whatsoever. All this being said, he is no detriment to this material. He carries the picture, just as he always does, but this time playing a character who at the start at least is hapless, at odds with his situation, flummoxed by the behavior and diction of his daughters, and lost, all of which he does very well – and he has the tact to never make any of this comedic. It is later on when his character becomes crazier, or ought to become crazier, that the story loses in urgency. I felt neither fear nor pity. The picture is beautifully made, grown-up and well worth seeing.


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