Film Review: The Descendants

It’s hard to believe that George Clooney has never won an Oscar for ‘Best Actor’. He’s perhaps the best known face in Hollywood, has an avid fanbase and has been making films since 1987, so how has this not happened before? Some say he is TOO good looking to win, others say he’s simply overrated as an actor. However, with ‘The Descendants’, it looks like Clooney may finally win the biggest accolade that any actor can win: the Oscar.

The Descendants’, tells the story of Matt King (Clooney) and two different situations he finds himself in: in one, his wife has been critically injured in a boating accident, and is in a coma, in the second, his family owns a vast amount of land, and is considering a number of offers to sell it off so everyone can become millionaires. Both plots run parallel to one another, overlapping at times, and providing a number of different characters. Oh, and the entire film is set on Hawaii.

Clooney’s Matt King, is an interesting person and reminiscent of a lot of the movie’s ‘dysfunctional’ characters. He is painted as a bad father and one who doesn’t let his feelings out, but as we progress with him, we see that he is just misunderstood. Clooney underplays him. He has stubble, often a big Hawaiian shirt and looks very nervous, often prompting cries of ‘don’t be a pussy’, from his eldest daughter, Alex (Shailene Woodley), a trouble child who’s been brought back from private school to help Clooney with younger daughter Scotty. It’s these faults that Clooney portrays King to have that may well win him the Holy Grail for actors.

The two kids, and Alex’s friend Sid, provide a lot of laughs and offer a sense of fun and freedom, when things get serious. Which they rarely ever do to be honest, for saying the theme of death is present quite a lot in the film, the majority of the time, it never feels depressing. Sure the eventual climax is a little bit sad, but the touch of director Alexander Payne, ensures that the characters are genuine and never become too clichéd.

Hawaii as a setting is utilised perfectly, never being overplayed, and always looking appropriately beautiful. The soundtrack too, fits perfectly, a lot of string-based music, with yodelling at times in the native language. It sounds a bit mad at first, but you’ll soon grow to love it.

IF George Clooney wins Best Actor for this, then, if only for his entire career, it’ll be worthy. However, if you base it on this year’s performances alone, which is what the Oscars should be all about, then I’d personally give it to ‘The Artist’s’, Jean Dujardin who was fantastic in the brilliant silent film. Clooney has been better, Dujardin perhaps won’t get better. Plus, let’s be honest, we all know Clooney is going to win it one day, and probably Best Director, like Clint Eastwood, after continuing his career beyond acting with  feature film ‘The Ides of March’, released last year.

Whilst the film itself is good and features very good performances from all three grief-stricken family members in particular, it seems overlong at 115 minutes and at times I was slightly bored. The message is that noone is perfect, and we all have our faults, but ones that, overtime, you can fix and forgive. Perhaps this is a good phrase to sum up the movie, it’s good, has its faults, but if you can look past this, then you’re on to a winner.


2 thoughts on “Film Review: The Descendants

  1. Great review, and I feel much the same from you as I did with the film – great analysis of Clooney’s performance.

    Just a note, you mentioned that The Ides of March was Clooney’s feature debut film as director…. it is actually his fourth – ‘Confessions of a Dangerous Mind’, ‘Good Night, and Good Luck’ and ‘Leatherheads’.

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