Skip to content

The Descendants & Shine

by on March 18, 2012

The Descendants

 With his wife Elizabeth on life support after a boating accident, Hawaiian land baron Matt King takes his daughters on a trip from Oahu to Kauai to confront the young real estate broker, who was having an affair with Elizabeth before her misfortune. (Taken from

I really like George Clooney. He’s charismatic, charitable, and looks a lot like my late father. His films are usually a mixed bag, and he’ll never be considered a ‘great actor’, but he has a certain kind of old-Hollywood vibe. Like Cary Grant and Clark Gable there’s just something intrinsically suave and cool about him.

Since the Oscars started nominating 10 films for Best Picture instead of 5, I’ve felt that some of the nominations have been a bit of a stretch. This year there were quite a few stretches. The Descendants, while not a bad movie at all, isn’t great. Having something like this or Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close be nominated for Best Picture instead of something like Drive doesn’t make any sense at all.

The Descendants tries to be a heart-warming journey of a father connecting to his daughters over his wife’s tragedy. What I didn’t really like about it is the story. It’s beyond depressing. I felt significantly worse after watching it, and I didn’t feel like I got enough out of it to justify all that depression. While I’m not like my mother and need the movies that I watch to be some sort of joy-inducing fantasy rides, I do need to be at least artistically stimulated when the movie makes me feel bad. Requiem for a Dream is a great example of a movie that makes you feel like shit, but you feel like it’s worth it. The Descendants just isn’t.


 Based on the true story of Australian pianist David Helfgott, this delightful movie charts the traumatic early years through adulthood. Telling the story in flashback we see David as a child prodigy and as he grows up while his patriarchal father abuses him and his siblings with the memory of his childhood in Europe and the loss of his family in the concentration camps. David finally breaks away from his father and goes away to study overseas, he later suffers a breakdown and returns to Australia and a life in an institution. Many years later he is released and through several twists of fate (in reality even more unlikely than film portrays) he starts playing a piano in a bar before finally returning to the concert hall. (Taken from

I’d been meaning to see Shine for many years, but never got around to it. I went through the Best Picture Oscar nominees for the last 20 years or so and got the ones I hadn’t seen. I’m a dedicated movie-lover. There were around 5 that I hadn’t seen, and I started with Shine. I took private piano lessons when I was a kid, so I could relate to Helfgott to a certain degree. It’s an incredible story about someone who is pushed way past his breaking limit. With unrealistic expectations and ugly prejudices, Helfgott’s father transformed the piano from an instrument of great beauty into an ugly obsession.

The film is a somewhat low-budget Australian production, using lesser-known but still impressive actors such as Geoffrey Rush, Armin Mueller-Stahl, John Gielgud and Lynn Redgrave. While the main focus has been on Rush’s deservedly Oscar-winning performance over the years, the real star of this film is the story. The real Helfgott is an incredible character, with his life’s story being almost too strange to be true. The scene where he enters the restaurant, shaking, mumbling, and chain-smoking, sits down at the piano and conjures up something so extraordinary that the crowd is dumbstruck is a great one. While the whole of the film doesn’t quite live up to the expectations of Rush’s stellar performance, it’s definitely an interesting film about an interesting man.


From → Movies

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: