No, I’m not referring to the horror film with the cop-out ending, but to a new psychological thriller that hit theatres in both New York and LA two weeks ago. Descent is a new movie directed by Talia Lugacy and starred and produced by Rosario Dawson in which has said to be her best role yet. Dawson’s character Maya is at a school party where she meets Jared, an awful football player though self-proclaimed to be the next big thing. Somehow he catches her attention, and flattered by his overbearing and creepy compliments agrees to go on a “real” date with him. Good conversation, mild attraction in the air, and she’s back at his apartment where he fixes her wine and they make out. Typical good date, right?
When his hands slide south, she hesitates and takes them away. He laughs a little but seems to be in his own world and before you know it, he’s ripping off her underwear, holding her arms back and raping her. The camera casts a soft light - closeup on the two of their faces, him still kissing her, her screams muffled by her slip, it becomes fuzzy just a little as his hair hides both their faces until she gives up laying there while he whispers racial slurs in her ear. Though it’s hard to make out through her screams and his groans, you’re sitting there scratching your head wondering ‘Is he really saying this?’ And wanting to turn your face but is paralyzed staring at Dawson’s pain.
The movie then moves forth to her isolation and her painful sorrow. She meets a man by the name of Adrian, a gorgeous Afro Latin DJ who knows the ins and outs of the club scene and introduces Maya to its dazzling and misguided life. Here she hides her pain through various men (and women) cocaine, and chainsmoking. When she goes back to school as a TA, she finds Jared in one of her classes and vows to seek revenge.
NYTimes has compared her acting to that of Hilary Swank’s in ‘Boys Don’t Cry’. Which truth be told, is a bit of a stretch. I love love love Rosario Dawson from the terrible movies of Pluto Nash to the greats of Kids and the 25th Hour. However, Hilary Swank gave birth to a new character, Brandon, who is quite literally unforgettable. That said, Rosario Dawson’s character Maya had such a quiet pain that you held your breath every moment she was on screen. She did this movie and her character justice, for if it had been anyone else the film wouldn’t have been half as powerful.
Aside from the acting and the plot, the script was a bit generic. Maya was a plain, underdeveloped woman who was unusually predictable in her actions, and unfortunately a bit naive. Though the Director herself commented on how this was sadly, a common story, I was still hoping for a little more. I wanted to get intimate with Maya, I wanted to know who she was before I saw her break, I wanted to know what justified her actions. Instead I got a girl going through the motions, rooting for her nonetheless but was rather detached from the character. In fact, i didn’t particularly like anyone in this movie. Even her martyr Adrian, who is certainly an eyeful, left a bad impression for the “fast life” seemed cliche and rather disgusting. I got annoyed as a viewer and wished the writing had gotten more creative. Instead of falling into the pitiful trap - I’m in pain, now I’m doing drugs to escape, yeah we’ve heard this all before. But you’re an artist, create a less generic scenario! I think she could’ve used this time to have molded Maya’s character.
I also wasn’t particularly fond with the dealings of race in this movie. In all reality, Maya could’ve been a white woman just the same. But there is something to be said of Maya being black, brown, mixed, Latina, insert racial identity here, and getting raped by an overpriveleged white boy and him “getting away with it”. If it weren’t for the mumbled racial slurs during the rape scene, you might’ve thought the writers forgot that Maya was a person of color all together!
What people do not know is that the revenge scene is what got everyone talking and not so much Rosario’s rape scene in this movie. It is compared to the French movie “Irreversible” so let that be your warning. But hey, see it for yourself — and you can definitely wait for it on video.
Oh and I’m a girl who’s all about moments in movies. The good thing about this movie is that it’s full of them! Small gestures, long blinks, biting of lips really adds to both the character and the movie itself.