Last night I went to see the Academy award nominated movie, The Descendants. There had been much buzz on the internet and elsewhere about the fine performance by George Clooney and so I agreed to go, since there were no competing movies featuring Nazis getting killed. ( I have very simple cinematic taste). I must here confess that going in to this film I already loathed Clooney, he of the over-inflated sense of his own brilliance, and super-charged Socialism, so I worked hard at separating the actor from the character he portrayed. Lucky for me, they were both equally despicable.
Clooney plays Matt King, a trust fund lawyer, father of two girls and husband to a woman recently sent into a mortal coma by a boating accident. The plot revolves around his relationship with his two girls as they deal with ultimately having to pull the plug on Mom. In a conversation with his oldest daughter King discovers that his dying wife had been cheating on him, thus complicating the grieving process for them all. Hovering around all of this dying and decay is the story of a huge parcel of land that the King family has owned in trust for 150 years that is about to dissolve. Matt, as sole trustee has to make the decision on behalf of a slew of cousins eager to profit handsomely from the impending sale. There is much hand-wringing about the proper relationship between land and indigenous Hawaiians etc. I assume that this plot twist was added by Clooney himself since what good is it to make a movie unless you get to lecture people about the evils of greed and the plight of the dispossessed… but I digress.
Clooney’s character is supposed to be sympathetic. We are supposed to feel sorry for him, what with his having to deal with watching his cheating wife decomposing and all. Then there is his estrangement from his daughters, his apparent lack of friends, and the pressure he feels from all of Hawaii who we are told await his land decision with much alarm. But, all I wanted to do is smack him in the face , then give both of his bratty girls the mother of all spankings. Matt King is to cinematic fathers what Hannibal Lecter was to cinematic psychopaths….the worst of the worst.
First of all, he clearly knows nothing whatsoever about his girls. The most honest moment in the entire movie comes when King in narrator voice admits that he…”is the understudy parent”. He cluelessly talks on the phone while his youngest throws furniture into the pool. When his girls incessantly drop F-bombs in conversation, he lamely and without the slightest conviction asks them to “watch your language”. At one point about 5 minutes after he himself has dropped an F-bomb, he incredibly asks his kids where they learned such raw language. His ten year old routinely shoots him the bird. His oldest daughter, to whom he seems to be a total stranger, openly belittles his every move. At one point this pathetically inept excuse for a father is reduced to seeking parenting advice from the 18 year old pothead boyfriend, the only character in the entire movie with an ounce of credibility. The fact that King was unaware of his wife’s infidelity comes as a shock to NO ONE who has paid any attention to the first 20 minutes of this interminable film. One starts to wonder what exactly this idiot has been doing with his life for the last 20 years. He was detached and distant from his wife, his oldest daughter has been sent off to a $35000 a year boarding school, and he is barely on speaking terms with his 10 year old. He spends his days in shorts and Hawaiian shirts at his law office doing God knows what. This is the type of character that Hollywood adores, a father with no conviction, stumbling through life, completely powerless against the arbitrary slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. In 2012 there will be no taking charge, no determined effort to redeem himself, no heroic attempts to reform his wayward children, no renewed desire to be a real father. We have to settle for the three of them eating ice cream on the sofa staring forlornly into the unseen TV screen. Three emotionless couch potatoes with blank faces as the credits roll.
I paid $21 for the two tickets, then $16 for burnt popcorn that wasn’t salty enough. That’s one hour and fifty five minutes of my life that I will never get back. Sigh….