Monday, 23 January 2012

The Descendants, dir. Alexander Payne, scr. Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, based on The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings, st. George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Judy Greer, Beau Bridges, Matthew Lillard

In Alexander Payne's rather bleak film of lost love and the reclamation of dignity, George Clooney plays Matt King, well-heeled due to ancestral ownership of a large wedge of prime Hawaiian real estate and left to look after his two daughters after his wife lapses into a coma following a boating accident. To make matters worse, it transpires she was having an affair at the time. Matt remains at her bedside, unsure of whether to cry or confront her, and frequently doing both. Unassumingly scored using the state's rich musical heritage, soft and undulating strains, Payne clearly goes for a detached, observatory POV, and Clooney pitches a great performance, flitting between icy stoicism and heavy anguish. It's all a bit predictable though and lacks much needed bite and Payne explored the journey of one man's uncertainty of his own self-worth far better in 2004's Sideways, in all kinds of ways a more resonant and thoughtful film. Woodley as Matt's daughter Alex is likewise rather wonderful, playing a role much like her father, as she oscillates between dry obstinance and a desire to engage with, protect and mend her broken family. Nonetheless, they're talking Oscars this year for Clooney and no doubt he'll be on the nominations shortlist when released tomorrow.