January 24, 2012
"The Descendants" is the latest film of Alexander Payne, who directed that excellent "dram-edy" called "Sideways" a few years back. It has won a lot of accolades in this year's awards season, biggest of which was the Best Picture Drama from the Golden Globes. Its star George Clooney is practically already a lock for Best Actor at the Oscars. All of this awards hype make you expect an exceptional film experience.
If you know "Sideways", then you should not expect "The Descendants" to be far off in terms of story telling and treatment. The story is about Matt King (Clooney), a busy real-estate lawyer, who tries to reach out and rebuild his family when his wife gets comatose because of a boating accident. His daughters Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and Scottie (Amara Miller) have both become distant and disrespectful. A big secret of his wife gets revealed in the meantime that throws Matt's world into a bigger turmoil. This is a simple family drama Payne-style, not really "Oscar" material for a lot of people. Do not expect too much, or it may disappoint you.
As for George Clooney, he is de-glamorized here as this harassed father with sassy daughters. Here, Clooney's Matt King was a desperate and weak character, but ultimately comes into his own as the story comes along, and we bear witness to his character's growth. He will definitely be a contender for Best Actor, even simply for playing against his usual slick, well-dressed, Danny Ocean-type characters. Clooney is quiet and subtle, much like his turn in "Up in the Air", but this one has more substance for me. Do not expect grand waterworks or big melodramatic scenes as would be expected from previous Best Actors in family drama movies.