Realism is taking the most authentic parts of life and injecting them into art. It’s something filmmakers take for granted and is always the answer when someone has a question about something.
“Why is there a goat in the bedroom?” one may ask. “Because it’s real!” would be the response. But once in a while, a film comes along with a goal to truly embrace its authenticity, which becomes its most valuable trait. Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” is one of them.
The story revolves around Matt King (George Clooney) as a lawyer dealing with the selling of a massive amount of land for an even bigger amount of cash. At the same time; however, he is also faced with the health of his coma-ridden wife, whose is not getting much better.
He eventually learns she is not going to wake up and has requested in her will the plug be pulled in an event such as this. Feeling that his 17-year-old daughter, Alexandria, (Shailene Woodley) should know this, he gathers her from boarding school to spend these last days together and to help him with his younger daughter, Scotty.
Normally, this would lead down a road of constant fights and bickering that at the end of which, the family would see they are not so different and become better people through this trial. This is not the case and is where the afore mentioned authenticity comes into play.
Now, there is no one scene that describes this best, as the whole movie works as a whole on such a good level. All of the characters have their own ways of doing things, including Matt, who is not a bad father, just an oblivious and direct one. All of the crying and sobbing happen away from each other and are dealt with in manners appropriate to the characters. There are few eruptive fights, as this is a story about a family simply dealing with this incident and the situations that come with it.
These range from having to deal with people they aren’t close to, secrets of loved ones, realizing certain things about yourself and others, and doing what you believe is necessary.
Credit must be given to Payne, as everything is handled so carefully and passionately in projecting what it’s like for a real family with real issues dealing with this very real situation. Nothing is overdone or fake and everything is taken very seriously. Very rarely do actors and the crew all come together in such symbiosis. The experience is incredibly engaging.
Everything about “The Descendants” feels so real and close to reality that the tone is consistent and allows the audience to be constantly attached to what’s going on that in the last five minutes, a hanky may be required.
This is as realistic a movie as you may come across. From the characters and the acting to the writing andthe directing, you feel as if this is all happening in front of you and makes for one of the most true and honest movie going experiences of the year.