December 5, 2011 by David Gillaspie
If every story began with ‘once upon a time’ and ended with ‘happily ever after’ would it change anything?
Would it bore you to death?
Even though movies and stories are as varied and wonderful as ever, they follow a pattern.
Like a blues song you know from the first bar, not the first twelve, movies have certain structures. If they didn’t, you’d be watching home movies at the cineplex.
“And this is where we turned off the highway.”
“This is a fast food place we’ve don’t have at home.”
I’ve got drawers full of those with more on the way.
A home movie isn’t the same as a movie, but you know that. Where a home movie reviews a memory, a movie makes a new one.
After seeing a movie, you do one of two things: you tell someone it was good, or you tell someone it wasn’t as good as you hoped.
Say it that way and support the arts.
You know why it wasn’t as good as you hoped and break it down in silence. Say a movie sucked and you join a bigger crowd who know what they like and don’t like, but can’t break it down.
What makes a good movie? Let’s break it down.
At least two stories are told at the same time, the Big Story, and the little story. The little story carries the hook.
If an audience likes the people in the story, they jump on board for the ride.
The Descendants starred George Clooney doing a variation of his character in O Brother Where Art Thou. It is pitch perfect casting with a touch of Dapper Dan.
His wife’s in trouble.
George Clooney raises his eyebrows with a “What” look.
His daughters are in trouble.
He has a bad feeling about an impending Deal.
The Deal is the Big Story told by the little story of family adventures. The Deal holds history and memories, maybe a future. How it goes down tells all you ever need to know about the little story.
The Descendants teaches how to behave when painful information pops up in already awkward situations. You don’t need martial arts. You don’t need knives and guns. You don’t need a radio controlled explosive vest. You don’t need a killing spree or a car chase or a helicopter strafing a crowd.
You do need these five things:
ONE: An interesting place, an exciting setting, with a twist on common perceptions. (Once upon a time.)
TWO: A main character with some bitterness toward twisted common perceptions.
THREE: Family and friends who live in common perceptions to varying degrees, with the youngest the most hopeful.
FOUR: Forces and actions by others trying to twist the already twisted common perceptions.
FIVE: Searching for evidence of new perceptions. (Happily ever after.)
The biggest moments of The Descendants come when you realize George Clooney has the same choices you do; you can either hurt someone, or not.
One is the easy way. The Descendants teaches you to take a harder look at your choices.