The Descendants and Hugo
Again, Two Tragically Disappointing Films
While I truly hate to say this, The Descendants is a gigantic disappointment by any definition. Like it or not, it is in the end little more than a mildly entertaining film that keeps repeating itself so often that you gradually lose any meaningful interest.
For those of you who have seen the previews, you already know that the film centers on a family’s attempt to deal with the fact that their wife and mother is unconscious in a hospital as she awaits death. Furthermore, things are further complicated by the fact that she was seriously injured in a boating accident where she was spending time with her lover.
Forget for a moment that the only really amusing moments to beexperienced are entirely reflected in the previews. Where The Descendants truly loses focus is repeatedly badmouthing a dying mother without remotely paying any attention to the fact that she was largely abandoned by her privileged family.
To be quite honest, what I truly disliked about the film is that you were supposed to feel empathy for George Clooney and his daughters, all enormously wealthy people living in Hawaii. The 17 year old daughter, played with spirit by Shailene Woodley, has a bit of a drug problem, while Clooney clearly has long ago abandoned his wife and family to pursue his legal career as a real estate lawyer.
Again, what I regretted most about The Descendants is the fact that the audience was consistently called upon to demonize a poor woman dying in a hospital while sympathizing with a handsome husband whose prior actions clearly played a some undefinable role in her misfortune. Women were clearly treated as second class citizens in this film, and Director Alexander Payne needs to be held accountable by someone as a result.
Given the fact that The Descendants, much like Melancholia and The Skin I Live In, was lavishly praised nationally by many critics, I’m sure that I was not alone in wondering just what those critics were thinking, and I doubt if many of you are going to end up praising it. Follow the reviews of this film and severely question those same reviewers when it comes to analyzing any future films. Regardless, The Descendants should not in any fashion be recognized at Oscar time.
Since I am obviously on an anti-critic bandwagon, let me also say that Martin Scorcese’s Hugo is overly praised to a tragic fault. While it is a lush movie from beginning to end, it also happens to be tedious to the point of utterly boring.
Let me simply say that I waited to take my two grandchildren, Connor, age 13 and Calen, age 10, along with me as an excuse. As I sat with them trying to resist the feeling that I had been tragically misled by the entire film, both kids told me afterward that the movie was “largely boring.”
The irony about Hugo is that it is as visually resplendent as was Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In. Ironically, just like the latter film collapsed in its own squalid perversion, Scorcese’s film simply goes nowhere. While the last 15 minutes are entirely entertaining, the simple fact is that the first hour and 45 minutes were little more than rambling nonsense.
Given the fact that this is the holiday season, I was really hoping that Hugo could rival The Polar Express as a Christmas film worth remembering. However, I fear that it is destined to soon disappear, and I can only state that none of you should feel any regret should you miss seeing it.