Movie of the Day – Descent
January 3, 2012 Leave a comment
Alright, I want to make clear that you are not reading about the previously reviewed movie The Descent which is a good horror film, but I guess this film called Descent is a bit of a horror film. I came across this movie during one of Blockbusters “going broke” deals and the fact that it had Rosario Dawson in the film immediately caught my attention. I mean she gets everyone’s attention…
After reading the description of the film, I was intrigued to see it compared to Gasper Noe’s Irreversible, which I found myself trying to look away because of the unsettling nature of film. I realized that Descent was going to be a bit more charged in terms of acting since Rosario is this powder keg of emotions and can carry a film with her emotional acting. I gave it a watch and to say the least, there are some scenes in this film that makes Irreversible seem like a tame chess match. It’s brutal, honest and a strong look on the psychological damage of it’s main character after a traumatic event.
Maya (Rosario Dawson) is a bright and ambitious college student who tries to balance a social life with her busy academic schedule. One night, Maya and some friends attend a house party largely populated by drunken frat boys. Maya is appalled by their uncouth behavior and disrespect for the female guests, and when a guy named Jared (Chad Faust) bluntly hits on her, she gives him a piece of her mind. While she begins to warm to him by the end of their conversation, Jared shows just how much he thinks of her opinions by brutally raping her later that night. The assault has a profound effect on Maya; her grades suffer, she turns to drugs to blunt her emotional pain, and falls into a cycle of promiscuity. Maya has come close to hitting bottom when she encounters Jared and confronts him about the toll he’s taken on her life. – Mark Deming, Rovi
This is not an easy movie to watch, but then you might have already guessed that from the opening comparison I alluded to with the film Irreversible. A film that has the main plot point center around a graphic rape and psychological damage, isn’t going to be an easy flick to sit through. While the “scene” might have a lot more shock to it, its the aftermath that follows with Maya and fragile image. It’s stark difference in the portrayal of rape in film, which show a more crushing and emotional charged aftermath. Descent centers on Maya’s transformation as a human being, one of a diminutive and demure nature, to one that is ravaged with self doubt and a weird sense of empowerment (contradictory in nature, I know).
The film transforms from the emotional carnage of rape, to one that has Maya turning into an empowered female who placates about the idea of exacting revenge on Jared. The character of Maya is a complicated one to get, while on the surface you might get an obvious feel for her emotions, but Rosario’s portrayal of Maya is just simmering under the edges of the characters psyche. Scenes of her trying to reclaim her sexuality and establishing herself emotionally is made effective through the smoldering looks of Rosario and her personal touches to the multiracial character Maya.
It’s unsettling to watch this movie, but it doesn’t mean that it’s unwatchable. For first time director, Talia Lugacy kind of made a daring statement with this film and the subject matter. It’s interesting, bold, and frightening to watch what happens on screen, but with Dawson’s impeccable skills, this movie has a chance to overcome some of the narrative flaws and turns the Maya character into something more than a victim. A lot of critics didn’t like the way the film shifts from a psychological, traumatic film to one of a revenge fantasy. I agree with them as I was a bit taken back by the shift in tone and it loses some of that edge it established. This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the film, but it is just a stark change in thematic tone and turns into an exploitation flick. It is still a film that has weight, all coming from Rosario, who I can’t help but praise in this film.