The Descendants (9/10)
by Tony Medley
Run time 115 minutes.
Not for children.
One would not think that a
movie about a family in which the mother, Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie),
is in what appears to be a terminal coma, the father, Matt King (George
Clooney) is forced to take over the care of the two daughters, and the
daughters are difficult, to say the least, would be one of the truly
funny pictures of the year. But thanks to director Alexander Payne's
acute sense of pace and timing, and a terrific script (Payne, Nat Faxon
and Jim Rash, from a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings), that's exactly what
It's a movie I wasn't
particularly excited to see, but I was overwhelmed by how good it is.
While Clooney gives the best performance of his career as the
paterfamilias, and while Shailene Woodley contributes an award-worthy
performance as his 17-year old daughter, Alex, the one who made the film
as funny as it is (in parts; there are also parts that brought tears to
my eyes, but not many), is Nick Krause, who plays Sid, Alex's goofy
boyfriend. Several times he had me laughing out loud uncontrollably. If
anybody gets an Oscar® out of this film, it should be Krause.
As implied, Clooney gives a
wonderful performance as the harried father who has a lot on his plate.
This isn't the egotistical Clooney who thinks he's cool and clever and
who inundates his films with one ECU after another. Here he's just a
normal (albeit rich) guy who has a lot of problems and is doing his best
to deal with them. Some of the funniest scenes in the film are just the
looks he gives the various people with whom he comes in contact. He
definitely deserves an Oscar® nomination for this role.
The other three members of the
cast who gave exceptional performances were Robert Forster, who plays
Elizabeth's father, Scott Thorson, Amara Miller, who plays Matt's
younger daughter, Scottie, and Hastie, who is a very convincing coma
victim, even though she never says a word.
The only thing that
disappointed me about the film was the cinematography (Phedon
Papamichael). The entire film is set in Hawaii. Anybody who watches
Hawaii 50 on TV is aware of the gorgeous prospects available in
Hawaii because each segment of that show starts with an aerial shot of
Hawaii in eye-popping color. Papamichael eschews allowing the scenery to
occupy any part of the enjoyment of the film, greying the color and
robbing Hawaii of it's stunning color. However, I'm told that Hawaii is
often grey, so he apparently chose to show it as it is. But this is a
movie. I want to see the dream.
But just because it's not a
travelogue for Hawaii is certainly not a reason not to go see this
interesting, highly entertaining film.