Young Adult is all about Charlize Theron…she is awesome! Wow! Who knew she could be a disgusting, nasty bitch? Obviously Jason Reitman did! Young Adult works as a dark comedy and yet, again with a Reitman film (Up in the Air), I felt unfulfilled. Theron’s Mavis never “goes” anywhere–which could be called original or different, but I call a little lazy.
Diablo Cody wrote the screenplay and again she proves she has a sharp tongue. I loved all the throw away lines! Pretty funny. It helps that Charlize had Patton Oswalt as a counterpart because he is one, of the many, undervalued comedians we have out there. His delivery is pitch perfect!
Reitman does a solid job directing. But this is pretty much point and shot. I have liked his films, but have yet to fall in love with him. [My favorite of his films was Thank You for Smoking--not Juno (I enjoyed it--but thought it was over-hyped)] I am still waiting to be blown away.
The story is dark. This is not a feel good tale. This is a sad look at a woman who has some serious issues. I did like the play on high school politics and antics–what would the world be like if those systems overlapped into adulthood? Lord, help us!
So, go at your risk–if you do not appreciate the dark side–stay in the light and avoid this film. If you embrace it or just like to flirt with the darkness–then you will enjoy it!
George Clooney is good! We all know that–but it is a joy to see him shine in a performance and it seems that writer/director Alexander Payne and Clooney were made for each other. The Descendants is a straight forward narrative, but Payne weaves emotions and subtleties that keep it interesting and unique.
Payne is a wonderful writer. He has this great ability to really capture a character’s voice. And all his films are slices of real people’s lives. His talent is in spinning them in a unique way. We can all relate to his stories–which why it comes across as poignant. Payne’s directing style is simple and clean and it works to keep the focus on the characters.
Another Payne trait is his use of creative settings–places we’ve heard of–but really do not know. In this case it is the islands of Hawaii. The island’s history plays a big part in the story and the islands themselves are an important and intricate character in the plot. I love when the setting becomes more than just a place for action to take place–it makes it richer. (Only negative aspect of the beautiful Hawaiian scenery was that there was a little too much a times–what is this a Terence Malick film )
At times I felt the story dragged a bit–not enough to be boring–but just enough to feel disjointed. Yet, it succeeds because of the performances. As noted, Clooney is fantastic! As the “back-up parent” who must step up and take care of his kids and as a detached husband who must come to grips with some harsh realities about himself and his marriage–Clooney knows how to relay the range of emotions while showing restraint. He is a natural.
Another stand out performance is Shailene Woodley as the eldest daughter. Woodley has done mostly TV and I had never seen her before. She is lovely. Strong, yet vulnerable. Again, very natural and believable. I will keep an eye on this young lady.
Overall, The Descendants is fine film–well written, acted and directed–a triple threat!