Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Descendants

The Descendants is a movie that I saw, may be, about 3-4 weeks ago. It's a little strange that I still remember the names of two important characters in the movie. Usually, I don't remember character names very well. The movie must have made a pretty strong impression on me, although it didn't seem so when I watched it. This is not to say that I didn't like the movie. In fact, I liked it very much, but it didn't seem like a Hollywood production; despite having a big star such as George Clooney, the movie seemed pretty somber and realistic to me.

The Descendants is about a man who is confronted with several major challenges at the same time. His wife is in a coma following a boat accident. As he is taking care of his comatose wife and dealing with the prognosis that his wife will not revive, he is also raising two difficult daughters, one of them a teen. If that's not enough he is entrusted with the sale of a massive piece of virgin family land by his large extended family to real estate developers, which has several environmental implications. Last but not the least, he learns from his own daughter that his comatose wife was cheating on him before she was vegetated by the boat accident. You can imagine the multitude and complexity of emotions that one must be dealing with in such a situation: grief, frustration, sense of loss, sense of responsibility, anger, and more. Clooney portrays all these emotions very well in his perhaps first de-glamourized role. Although it's been a few weeks since I saw this movie, I  still remember the scenes that show Clooney behaving in an awkward-human way while dealing with the challenges life throws at him. Isn't that how we are when we usually face major challenges of life, floundering with life in the most unrefined, awkward, and embarrassing way imaginable? We may ultimately attain grace through the learning that comes from our missteps and screw-ups, but our initial reaction is not often as refined and graceful as is typically shown in movies.

Recently, I had read about some research, according to which men supposedly take much longer to recover  from relationship related losses than women. Irrespective of whether men deal with these challenges in a functional or dysfunctional way, most movies (at least the ones that I have seen) don't make the protagonist appear socially awkward while he is dealing with losses. Instead, they make the protagonist appear very graceful. Such depictions of coping may have a strong melodramatic effect, but it makes things appear a little unrealistic to me. In this sense, The Descendants was a refreshing change for me, because it showed the emotional vulnerabilities of a man without using the personal charisma of its star.

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