It got over-shadowed during awards season by “The Artist”, but “The Descendants” was clearly one of the best films of 2011 (#5 on my list) and now it’s out on Blu-ray/DVD.
Alexander Payne (“Sideways”) directs this compelling, often amusing and ultimately satisfying drama which stars George Clooney, who delivers yet another completely convincing performance. Clooney plays Matt King, an attorney who lives in Hawaii with his wife and two daughters. As the story begins his wife is in a coma, after hitting her head in a boating accident. He soon finds out that she’s not going to live. And then he learns from his oldest daughter (no spoiler alert here – it’s in all the trailers) that his wife was having an affair. Matt doesn’t have a great relationship with his kids, so things are going to get a little rough.
At the same time he’s also dealing with his two dozen or so cousins. They all own a large piece of land on one of the islands which they have to sell. So they all must decide who to sell it to – and Matt has the final say.
He’s a good guy dealing with some very serious issues and situations, including wanting to find the man his wife was having the affair with. Clooney handles the complexity of this character perfectly. This is the best perfomance of his career and I still believe he deserved the Oscar.
“The Descendants” begins with narration, as Clooney sets-up the plot and his emotions at the time. This goes on a little too long and is distracting at times. Thankfully the narration is toned-down as the movie goes on.
The movie does a great job of pulling you in. You’re immediately invested in these characters and what’s unfolding on screen. This is one of the few films I can honestly say that I was disappointed when it ended. Even at nearly two hours I wanted to see more of how things worked-out for this family.
Clooney is in practically every scene once, as always, owns the screen. He is one of the few actors today who brings his A-game every time, and makes every role believable. The rest of the cast, including the kids, are very good. Beau Bridges, Robert Forester, Judy Greer and Matthew Lillard makes-up the nice supporting cast and each has a pivotal scene in which they shine (Lillard holds his own in a key one-on-one showdown with Clooney).
The film’s tone is key to the story and it’s pitch-perfect. Payne does a great job of keeping the story on track and true to itself. And there’s just the right amount of Hawaiian atmosphere.
“The Descendants” is rated R for some adult subject matter and a decent amount of language, mostly spoken by the kids. It’s appropriate for teens and up. If you’re a George Clooney fan or just a fan of good movies this is a must-see.
On “The Official Kid Critic Report Card“, “The Descendants” gets a B+.