20 October 2011

LoFiFest 2011 Part III

Last night's screening can be described as a great film but with a somewhat disappointing celebrity-spotting and photographing opportunity. Tonight, I took Maman--a huge George Clooney fan--to the premiere of The Descendants and the pressure was on. Although I thought it was highly likely he would show up tonight too, there are no guarantees of these things at the London Film Festival. I had hoped to learn from last night's mistakes (mainly walking down the red carpet too early) but, of course, every screening is different.

George Clooney and the paparazzi
Leicester Square was quieter tonight so Maman and I were able to hang about at the start of the red carpet for a while, plotting our next move. Eventually, we started walking and soon, we were being hurried along by the security staff. Spotting a lot of flashes, I suddenly spotted George. I pulled out my camera and started taking photos but I didn't have the flash on and people kept getting in my way. We were almost at the doors but I quickly sneaked back and grabbed a few quick photos. As our seats were further forward tonight than last night, I also took some photos when Clooney, along with director Alexander Payne, a producer (whose name I didn't catch), and Shailene Woodley, who plays Clooney's daughter in the film, came on the stage to introduce the film. They talked briefly about how Clooney rarely plays a family man and Payne encouraged us all to forget about every other George Clooney film we've ever seen.

The only other Alexander Payne film I've seen is Sideways, which I liked and which shares certain similarities with The Descendants. They are both about journeys (metaphorical and real), they both end without too much resolution, and they are both homages to states (California in Sideways and Hawaii in The Descendants). Clooney plays Matt King, a Hawaiian lawyer, whose wife Liz gets in a boating accident at the start of the film and ends up in a coma. Suddenly, he has to go from "back-up parent" to primary parent of his two daughters, ten-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller) and 17-year-old Alexandra (Woodley). He doesn't know his daughters very well and he definitely doesn't know how to help with them deal with their mother's precarious situation.

Sandra Hebron, Alexander Payne, producer, Shailene
Woodley and George Clooney.
To complicate matters, Liz has a provision in her will that means her life support machine must be turned off a certain period after doctors have decided there is no hope, so Matt has to break the bad news to all their friends and family to allow them all to say their last goodbyes. Alex insists that her friend Sid (Nick Krause) come with them on all these visits and trips; initially, Matt sees him as a wastrel stoner but later comes to appreciate Sid's support of Alex and even his sometimes too blunt, teenage boy world view. To complicate matters even further, Matt's ancestors owned a large chunk of land on another Hawaiian island, of which he shares ownership with assorted cousins. He, though, as the lawyer, is the only trustee and so the only one who can authorise the sale of the land but when he finds out who might benefit from the proposed sale, he isn't so sure he wants to go ahead.

Although much of the subject matter of The Descendants is pretty sad, like Sideways, it managed to feel quite upbeat and positive overall. When you think of Hawaii, you think of sunshine, flowers and beaches, but there are only a couple of beach scenes in The Descendants, and the sun only shines in the last few minutes of the film. Clooney, of course, made a great family man, and Woodley (who, in her perilous five-inch heels tonight, was nearly the same height as Clooney as he escorted her onto the stage) was strong as the angry and hurting Alex. I have a feeling this film may do well when we reach the awards season next year.

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