The Descendants

Isn’t it tragi­com­ic, don’t you think?

Grief is a hot pota­to. So scald­ing hot, in fact, that when it first touch­es us it feels cold. It feels as cold as guilt, an emo­tion that is eas­i­er to trans­fer because we are famil­iar with the process. We even have a name for the mech­a­nism by which we do it: blame.

We have no word for the trans­fer­ence of grief. It is the hot pota­to that burns our skin so instant­ly that it sticks to it, and to us.

That is the first of my two the­o­ries after watch­ing Alexan­der Payne’s The Descen­dants, the sto­ry of a fam­i­ly fac­ing the immi­nent loss of one of its mem­bers (and at the same time its her­itage) while life con­tin­ues to drone by with­out fanfare.

Faced with sad­ness, we cry. Faced with tragedy, we laugh. In that sense, the death of some­one dear is the most hilar­i­ous event of all. It is beyond absurd.

This leads me to my sec­ond the­o­ry: It is said, and I agree, that mov­ing peo­ple to laugh­ter is much hard­er than mov­ing them to tears. The hard­est of all, how­ev­er, is mov­ing peo­ple to tears in the face of the absurd. The Descen­dants does that, and if for noth­ing else, it is my favorite film of 2011.

Direct­ed by Alexan­der PayneStar­ring George ClooneyShai­lene Wood­leyJudy GreerBeau Bridges, Nick Krause and Ama­ra Miller.

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