Monday, December 19, 2011

Rated D - The Descendants

Welcome Back to an Up-To-Date Edition of Rated D!

This weekend I went to see a movie called "The Descendants." SPOILER ALERT: A Hawaiian lawyer must decide what to do with his family's inherited land while coping with his wife's tragic accident that has left her in a coma.

Sounds like the feel good movie of the year, right? No? Well, that's what you get with Director Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways). His movies usually have somewhat of a somber tone but he is skilled at injecting in enough oddball characters and unusually satisfying comedy that the movie never sinks to so dark of a place that you cannot come back from it. Such is the case for "The Descendants". When his wife is seriously injured in a boating accident which puts her into a comatose state, Hawaiian lawyer, Matt King, played by George Clooney (Michael Clayton, Up in the Air), is thrust into the role of parent and (most likely) soon-to-be widower. On top of that, due to his inheritence, he is also faced with being the final say-so in a land deal that will not only change the state of Hawaii, but also the financial fates of most of his family members. Clooney delivers a great performance as he tones down the charming, ladies man and (for the most part) hangs up the intimidating voice while showing off some very moving vulnerability. Matters are complicated even further when his troubled seventeen year-old daughter, played by Shailene Woodley (TV's Secret Life of an American Teenager, TV's The OC), informs her dad that Mom was having an affair. I know little about Woodley, but she nails it in this one. Her portrayal of a frustrating, foul-mouthed adolescent never becomes too unlikeable nor does it seem forced. She naturally jumps from annoyed to sympathetic to impossible to sincere yet maintains a solid character foundation that never seems too schitzophrenic or underdeveloped. Although there is a ticking clock in regards not only to a family meeting about the land, but also to his wife's failing health, to me, the movie's main focus is on the emotions that we hide and the ones we show. At points, Matt angrily scolds his unconcious wife but immediately chastises his daughter for doing the same and, while desperately seeking closure for her infidelity, he doesn't recklessly tarnish her memory to people like her cranky father, played by Robert Forster (Jackie Brown, Mulholland Dr.) who tears at your heart in just two scenes. Sad as it may sound, Payne never loses us to darkness, nor does he turn their tragedy into a farce. Part of this balance comes from Alexandra's socially inept boyfriend and King's ten year-old, monkey-see-monkey-do daughter, but another part comes from the beautiful backdrop of Hawaii. It's an interesting effect juxtapositioning such gloomy material with such breathtaking views and vibrant colors. For me, it wasn't so much the whole story that I enjoyed, but instead the performances given in the movie. Although I've not always been as big of a Clooney fan as most, his final scene between him and his wife is almost enough to forgive him for "Batman & Robin"... almost enough...

To Tie It Back to Health & Fitness...
Clooney's wife suffering from a boating accident got me thinking about water safety this week. It's important to remember that whenever you are out on a boat or participating in any aquatic activity dangers are all around you. I of course am referring to sharks. Let's be straight about one thing: every shark wants to be eating you all the time. The only way to truly be safe is to stay out of the water... always. However, I'm growing suspicious. Don't even sit there, owning a fireworks stand, and tell me that you've never been about to open a closet door and got that sneaking suspicion that a shark might be on the other side... We must be prepared. Just watch this video I'll give you a moment to change your pants and then you may continue reading. Remember, sharks can smell blood and bees can smell fear. You better pray they never team up... Oh, my... Shark Bees... I've found my low-budget sci-fi film. So long suckers!

"Don't be fooled by the Hawaiian shirts. Out here, even the most powerful people can look like bums and stuntmen." - George Clooney as Matt King

Technically Speaking...
I've heard lots of praise from critics about "The Descendants", but to be honest, I don't think it's quite as perfect as they're making it out to be. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of great things about this movie, but there are issues. For instance, Matt is so concerned with never having been "the back-up parent" but aside from just being around his kids while he's searching for his wife's lover, we don't see him really tackle those challenges. I guess one could argue that's the point" but I don't think it's intentional. The same goes for his troublesome daughter. When we first meet her, she is wasted at her boarding school and acts like a brat for a little while after that. But really, aside from one borderline-comedic repremanding at the hospital, she sort of just shapes up and flies... somewhat right on her own. For all of its sincere drama, there are several very "unreal" moments in the dialogue.

REVIEW - I give it 3.5 out of 5 Hawaiian Shirts

A List of Fives

This Week's List... "Aloha!"

Movies set in Hawaii!

1. Pearl Harbor (2001) - Regardles of how you feel about this movie, you are right. This movie is all sorts of bad and good and Michael Bay stamps his explosive trademark all over it. I was lucky enough to be a junior in high school in U.S. History when this film came out and the teachers brought us to see it for educational purposes. Thank goodness, none of them had seen The Rock, Bad Boys, or Armageddon. Bonus!: Check out the song from "Team America: World Police" titled "Pearl Harbor Sucked And I Miss You".

2. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) - A hilarious film about a composer who tries to get over his movie star ex-girlfriend by going to Hawaii... where she also is vacationing. Jason Segel (The Muppets, Despicable Me) also wrote this one, showing that he truly is obsessed with muppets through a musical puppet show... about Dracula. Be warned, he also thinks a naked crying man is extremely funny so there are several full frontal moments that are bound to catch you off guard.

3. A Perfect Getaway (2009) - Three couples are in a fight for the lives in a secluded Hawaiian jungle when rumors of a double homicide destroy their paradise. I don't know if I could call this one a great movie, but its definitely a fun little story with lots of twists and fun storytelling.

4. Just Go With It (2011) - For completely normal reasons, a plastic surgeon played by Adam Sandler (Punch-Drunk-Love, Airheads), makes up a fake family to get out of trouble with his beautiful new girlfriend. At the risk of sounding obvious, if you like Adam Sandler movies, you'll like this one. His movies have a distinct style and you either look past it and laugh or just get tired. I think I'm a little in the middle. When I watch his films, I don't expect much and just hope for a couple of funny lines and maybe a few good physical gags.

5. 50 First Dates (2004) - What did I just say? Actually, this one has a slightly different style, but it attempts to tackle a subject that in my opinion is tragically sad. After spending a perfect day with what he's sure is the perfect girl, a serial dater finds that the girl suffers from short-term memory loss and thinks every day is the day before her accident. There are some funny moments and the usual round of cameos from the Happy-Madison films, but, personally, I found the movie's premise so depressing that even when they unveil the hopeful side of the story, I just felt bummed. Great soundtrack though!

Still Haven't Seen It?

Our Idiot Brother- Paul Rudd (Clueless, Anchorman) stars as a naive, optomist and laid-back do-gooder who is trying to function in "normal" society with the help of his sisters: Zooey Deschanel (Almost Famous, Yes Man), Elizabeth Banks (W., Invincible), and Emily Mortimer (Formula 51, Lars and the Real Girl). It's so funny that it's almost sad to watch him constantly stick to his morals and try to be the good guy while we know the path of least resistance would be for him to just... Lie! For goodness sake LIE! Paul Rudd is so damn likeable that even at his most hapless moments, you almost find yourself wishing you could look at the world through his eyes and begin to question whether he's an idiot or maybe just a great person. A person who foolishly sells weed to a cop and tells his parole officer about his other indiscretions, but still a pretty great person.

Next Time on Rated D -

Decisions, descisions! I crossed "The Descendants" of the list and then "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" jumped right in there. We'll have to wait and see!

-Gorilla Man

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