The Descendants (6/15/12)

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In The Descendants, after his wife ends up in a coma, a man must reconnect with his daughters as he struggles to deal with his enormous Hawaiian land inheritance.

Matt King (George Clooney) finds himself in two unusual predicaments. For the first, he is one of the descendants of Hawaiian royalty and has control of over 25,000 acres of untouched land on the island of Kauai. The second situation involves King’s wife, who was seriously injured in a boating accident and is now in a coma. King now has to deal with his two daughters growing up and his life is further complicated when he finds out his wife had been having an affair.

The Descendants is a film that I truly didn’t enjoy until the final 20 minutes when I was absolutely floored emotionally. I never would have guessed that I would have any emotional response since I had little interest in the story or even the characters. It turns out I was wrong about the latter but not really the former.

One thing I think that really irks me is the trailers for the film made this seem like a quirky indie comedy when it isn’t. Sure, there are a few moments that are supposed to be funny but I found them forced and even cringed at a few of them. I was not expecting such a touching story and had I expected it beforehand, I may have been more invested in more than the final quarter of The Descendants.

I will say this is one of my favorite roles for George Clooney. At times I have a hard time dealing with his roles where he oozes his Clooney charm, but here he is fairly human and raw. He is a hurt man and he portrays a hurt man well. There are also two other standout performances,  surprising ones at that,  from Matthew Lillard and Judy Greer.

The Descendants would still be a hard film for me to blindly recommend. The story is meandering, and many of the characters simply didn’t work for me. I was ready to give it a 3 star rating until it ended and I knew that there was no way I could get away with that since very few films move me to tears like The Descendants did. However, I still don’t think I would have any desire to watch it again.

I give it 4 I wish I owned this much of Hawaiis out of 5.

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The Ides of March (5/16/12)

Ides of MarchMovie One Hundred Twenty

The Ides of March is political drama about the both a running candidate for the presidency of the U.S. and his staff as things begin unfolding for the campaign.

Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Meyers, a young up-and-comer campaign adviser working alongside Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman) for their candidate Mike Morris (George Clooney). As the campaign heats up for Morris as he tries to win the democratic nod for presidency, things begin to fall apart for Stephen. The rival campaign manager meets with Stephen and the press finds out, leaving Stephen out of a job. Around the same time, Stephen learns a dark secret of Morris’ and he learns what politics is truly about.

George Clooney co-wrote and directed Ides of March and while the screenplay is smart and the direction is well done, something is missing here. Perhaps it’s the depressing message that politics are absolutely messed up that drives the movie. Evan Rachael Wood plays an intern on the campaign that gets involved with Stephen and I simply cannot stand her. When she is on screen it’s like a talentless black hole sucking all the life out of the picture, even including Gosling’s intense staring fits. I may not be in the majority with that slightly hyperbolic opinion, and it may not affect your viewing experience should you choose to see this film, but it marred Ides of March for me. Oh, and Marissa Tomei has a role as a reporter and they made her look like a crazy cat lady that never bathes, so why cast Marissa Tomei in that role?

The story is something the film does quite well, the characters all have their place and the entire thing is, sadly, believable. While the film focuses on democratic candidates, I didn’t notice any real political potshots taken at either party. If anything, it makes the entire two-party democratic system look bad. By the end of Ides of March I was left wanting a bit more. I enjoyed my time with The Ides of March and could watch Ryan Gosling stare intensely at a wall for 90 minutes. It’s certainly not a film I think everyone would enjoy, judging by some of the Amazon user reviews, lots of people hated it. While I had a positive experience with Ides of March, it seems like it’s the type of movie that needs to be experienced first-hand.

I give it 4 I’d vote for George Clooneys out of 5.

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