After The Descendants won Best Motion Picture—Drama at the Golden Globes a couple days ago, not to mention George Clooney’s win for Best Performance by an Action in a Motion Picture—Drama, I decided I had better get to a theater and see what all the fuss was about. I’m currently in Melbourne, Australia, but lucky for me, there is a theater right here in my hotel complex.
On a side note, this was the first time I've ever seen a movie in a foreign country. It was essentially the same as going to the theater in the United States with one major difference. In Australia, or at least at the theater I went to, seating was assigned. I didn't care for this at all. Sitting in between two strangers was not ideal, especially when there were several empty seats. Nonetheless, I like to adhere to cultural norms so I stayed out and made do.
Now that I've got that off my chest, let me address the lure of this film, George Clooney. I am hit or miss when it comes to this film super star. I love a lot of the movies Clooney puts out such as Ocean’s 11, Burn After Reading, Up in the Air, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and the Ides of March, but every once in awhile there will be one that disappoints like Leatherheads and The Men Who Stare at Goats. I wasn't sure what to expect, but let me tell you, when it comes to The Descendants, add it to his list of hits; as a matter of fact, I’d say this was one of his best performances ever, right up there with Up in the Air and O Brother.
In this film, Clooney plays Matt King, a Hawaiian workaholic whose wife is in a coma and on life support. Left with two daughters and a monumental business decision to make, King must juggle the hardships of an impending death and a series of life-changing discoveries. Clooney shines in the role, and if you see the film, you’ll understand why he was awarded the Golden Globe.
Speaking of tremendous performances, the entire film was brilliantly cast. The roles of King’s daughters were played by Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller, with the former capturing the audience’s attention in a performance equal to that of Clooney, while the latter showed remarkable range for someone so young. I am confident that both of these ladies will have a bright future in Hollywood.
Others in the film who delivered stirring performances included Judy Greer, Rob Huebel, Nick Krause, and Robert Forster. There was one scene where the latter two actors interacted that was particularly funny (“I’m going to hit you.”); in fact, that’s one of The Descendants’ strengths, the well-timed infusion of subtle comic relief in otherwise serious situations.
Speaking of the film’s earnestness, I must admit that there are few motion pictures out there that have packed an emotional charge like this one. The intimacy displayed in this film toward life, love, heartache, and death will resonate with anyone who has been in a similar situation. There are times in life when you desperately need answers and go to ridiculous lengths to get them, even if they’re not attainable. Then there are times when you must deal with missed opportunities, never saying what needed to be said, and having to cope with life after the fact. The Descendants not only explores these life experiences, it encompasses it.
There was nothing fake or over the top about The Descendants and that is what makes it do great. Here is a movie that is real, unadulterated, and as close to real life as a movie can get. The film neither goes too far nor does it fall short, instead it toes the line perfectly. With a great story, superb performances, and a well-written script, The Descendants is one of the best films in recent months and will be a contender come Oscar season. If you have the chance, see this movie.
Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 95%
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