Review: The Descendents

George Clooney delivers one of his finest performances in this well-balanced drama. Combining a deft delivery of comic moments with a character whose sincerity shines through was never going to be easy but Clooney succeeds with aplomb.

Alexander Payne, arguably best known for cult classics such as Sideways and About Schmidt is a director who divides opinions. Despite being a fan of his work, I’ve watched his films with people who either cry with laughter or are sent to sleep. The Descendants is his first film as a director for seven years and sees him bring together his juxtaposition of black comedy and sincere drama once more and this time he will surely find more universal appeal.

The film begins with Matt (George Clooney) staring at his wife, who is deep in a coma. A father of two girls, Matt pledges to reunite his dysfunctional family before his wife wakes up. His halcyon dream soon crumbles when his daughter reveals a dark family secret – his spouse has been cheating on him for months. He then makes it his mission to come to terms with this revelation and forgive his wife before her life support machine is turned off. Running parallel to this, the troubled father faces a business dilemma. Owning large amounts of land, he must either cash in and make his family rich or protect the rural interests of domestic Hawaii.

Using Hawaii as a backdrop for his story is a stroke of genius. As Matt sums up in one of the opening scenes, Hawaii is a place full of misconceptions; much like our protagonist George Clooney. His suave demeanor undersells a distinguished actor who has shown glimpses of excellence in many of his latest films such as Burn After Reading and The Men Who Stare At Goats. His lead performance here is superb – he immediately connects with the audience, revealing the humane fallacies of life as a father whilst never being two-dimensional or twee.

Clooney is supported by a sterling performance by young actor Shailene Woodley, who you may recognise from The OC if you’re that way inclined. She plays the eldest daughter in the family and becomes a likeable yet feisty sidekick for Matt in his journey to find closure. Her boyfriend in the film, the loveable Sid (Nick Krause) appears to have stepped straight out of Dumb and Dumber, yet delivers some profound one-liners that add seasoning to what is already an interesting and engaging story. Highly recommended.

Via Blogomatic 3000

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