Where This Meets That
Judging only by the titles of these two movies that bookended my weekend, one might sense a connection; there is none.
The Descendants – 2011, Alexander Payne
The Descendants received generally rave reviews and garnered Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Actor for George Clooney. It was worthy of the buzz. Clooney portrays Matt King, a lawyer and land baron poised to offload his family’s prized, virgin Hawaiian beachfront acreage to developers. In parallel, he is struggling with emotions surrounding his comatose wife who is on the verge of dying after a boating accident.
His success in real estate has come at the cost of his own home life. His oldest daughter battles drug addiction, and his wife is having an affair with another man. He only finds out the latter after his wife’s accident, which drives an entirely different emotional dynamic for Clooney’s character.
He is a plausibly flawed character facing many life challenges in the film. That he sincerely desires to make right his flaws as a means to face those challenges wins our favor, and Clooney carries the job as well as anyone in the business.
Performances are strong all around, as is the screenplay, aside from a few moments of comic relief that add no value.
The Descent – 2005, Neil Marshall
Not to be confused at all with The Descendants, The Descent is a monster movie I’ve seen included on a number of recommended watch lists. Despite repeated, ahem, descents down my Netflix queue it snuck up on me and showed up in our mail.
It’s the story of six women seeking adventure in an Appalachian cave system but find much more than they had in mind.
The strength of the film is its building suspense. It capitalizes on many base fears, such as darkness, claustrophobia, and alienation, before falling into standard monster movie fare.
I really liked the psychological element of the film but rather wish the monsters had been imagined by the fraying psyches of the characters. Oh sure, the monsters are creepy enough (reminiscent of Tolkien’s “Gollum” but totally blind), but once they start coming out of the the “stonework” the film becomes standard monster gore-fest. I do, however, applaud the non-conventional ending in the unrated version. I understand the version released in American theaters was cleaner and more conducive to the sequel; I think I saw the right version.