Hello, everyone. Sorry for the delay in getting this up, but welcome to the 2011 Lone Star International Film Festival blog. I won't be covering the fest by myself like I did last year, so I'm looking forward to talking with our other writers about the movies we're seeing, especially with this year's lineup.
Last night LSIFF opened with The Descendants, the first feature film by Alexander Payne since his widely feted 2004 comedy Sideways. It's being widely tipped as an Oscar contender, and you can see why. George Clooney portrays a wealthy Hawaii lawyer whose wife was in a boating accident that put her in a coma. Now he has to raise two daughters, an angry 17-year-old (Shailene Woodley) and a precocious 10-year-old (Amara Miller), by himself. It's even harder when the older daughter breaks the news to her dad that her mom was having an affair.
You'll get to see this film pretty soon; it's scheduled for a Dallas release on the 18th and then an expansion into Tarrant County five days later for Thanksgiving weekend. My gut instinct tells me this isn't a masterpiece, but I still found a lot to like in this movie. Payne perfectly captures the inconvenience of feeling depression, rage, and grief in a sun-drenched vacation spot that's supposed to banish all negative emotions. Payne's known more for getting his human interactions right, but he's underrated when it comes to landscapes; he's very good at capturing the natural beauty of Hawaii. The acting is very good, especially from Woodley and Clooney (even though he's somewhat miscast). As with all Payne movies, the writing is splendid, especially a scene late when father and daughter go to the house of mom's boyfriend (Matthew Lillard) and pin the guy neatly while his oblivious wife (Judy Greer) is there.
The theater was pretty full, as you'd imagine a big-ticket film would have. The screening was followed by a Q&A session with actor Nick Krause, who plays the older daughter's obnoxious boyfriend. He's a Texas guy (Georgetown) who's thinner in real life than on the screen, with much shorter hair. He described auditioning over the Internet for the role. The whole evening got this year's festival off to a flying start.
By the way, if you were at this screening and were wondering about that moviegoer with the stuffy nose and persistent cough, it was me. Sorry, everyone. The battery of medications that I take to control my allergies seems to be losing its efficacy. I'll be spending the rest of the festival well-stocked with cough drops and Kleenexes. -- Kristian Lin