Flat films are those films which may even earn an Oscar but still they will be hardly remembered after one day/week/month/year. In these films everything just happens on surface. They live out of beautiful images, some moments of crying and laughing, a star or two with a famous name and a pretty face. Nothing is deep, intense, profound or disruptive and even when they do not have a totally happy ending, they are always re-comforting, they always pat your head.
“The Descendants” – I have seen it last night at a special screening in the presence of George Clooney (famous name and pretty face) and writer/director/producer Alexander Payne – is one of these films. It got five nominations at the Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for Clooney. Actually George does not even technically act in the film. He just puts on his sardonic smile and his somehow disoriented expression and travels competently through the film in which the usual story of a family overcoming conflicts and sticking together when facing a disgrace gets superficially developed. In the background, beautiful but touristic images of Hawaiian Islands complete the scene and are used as transitions – the shameless director dared to say that he replicates a technique of Japanese cinema legend Yasujirō Ozu.
George Clooney is definitely much better in real during the poorly animated debate after the screening. He is a great entertainer, funny, intelligent and even auto-ironical. Of course beautiful and somehow charismatic. He is great for example when he jokes on his own reputation of somebody who does not really like children so much. However, if it comes to acting, he’s really far from Hollywood giants like De Niro, Nicholson or Al Pacino just to name a few and probably his best role is still the one of Dr. Ross on the hit NBC drama ER from 1994 to 1999.
To sum up, I see “The Descendants” as a typical product of today’s Hollywood film industry. You are decently entertained for a couple of hours, then the story slowly fades away while you walk home and the sugary warmth of the final scene is the only thing that really sticks.