The Descendants starring George Clooney, and directed by Alexander Payne, is a dark comedy that spills over into a tear jerker, and moves from awkward moment to awkward moment.
Clooney plays Matt King, a lawyer and the heir to a massive chunk of ocean front property in Hawaii. The film follows his struggle to care for his two daughters, and deal with his thrill seeking wife, who’s in a coma. While all of this is going on, there is the impending sale of the prime real estate, something King and his many cousins are in the process of finalizing.
Clooney is able to blend bits of comedy and tragedy in his performance, and definately catches the audience off guard with one particular heart felt speech to his wife. It’s an interesting role for Clooney, who typically plays the smooth talking leading man, because for the majority of the film he’s fumbling to make any situation work out, and often has no idea how to. He’s had little involvement with his daughters, so when he becomes their only parent, he has no idea how to deal with them. Disciplining them for swearing, wondering why they act the way they do, and responding to other parents, are just a few of examples of what he attempts to cope with. Richard Roeper suggested the role of Matt King wasn’t really suited for Clooney, and would have been better with an actor like Tom Hanks, or Paul Giamatti. However, one the best aspects of the film is watching Clooney as a bumbling, out of place character. It’s a change from what he normally does, and it works.
A final point of interest is that this film is Alexander Payne’s first full length feature since Sideways. Similar to the way Sideways immersed itself in the wine culture The Descendants immerses itself in the culture of Hawaii. The film is in no rush, and provides countless shots of the gorgeous scenary of Hawaii, juxtiposed against the film’s sad and uncomfortable story. Again, similar to Sideways the scenes in the film play out in an honest, unexpected way, with many characters showing raw emotion.
Overall The Descendants is a film that should see some nominations at a the awards shows this year, and is definately worth checking out. And fans of Sideways will be pleased.