It's Oscar season again people and the inevitable inclusion of one George Clooney seems to be a forgone conclusion each and every year. This year, his performance in Alexander Payne's The Descendants is up for the Best Actor gong and there's no doubting he is a worthy contender.
When people think of Hawaii they instantly envision picturesque sandy beaches, sweltering sunshine and beautiful garlands, but the story of Matt King (George Clooney) shows that it is a normal place just like anywhere else where tragedy can hit anyone. In this case his wife, Elizabeth is involved in a water sports accident and falls into a coma. As a workaholic Matt is suddenly thrust into the unknown, being ultimately 100% responsible for the welfare of his children, rebellious 17-year-old Alex (Shailene Woodley) and 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller). Couple that with a big decision that he must make regarding the family-owned land left to them by his descendants and Matt's life is far from the paradise that is the location he lives in.
Initially struggling with the responsibility, Matt can only turn to his eldest daughter for guidance, whilst attempting to cope with the heartbreaking news that his wife will not make it out alive. With this news eating away at him, another revelation from Alex is revealed, the fact that Elizabeth was having an affair. His world crumbling around him, Matt takes his daughters, and Alex's not-so-intelligent friend Sid, on a trip across the Hawaiian islands to find the man partaking in the affair and to inform those close family and friends of the terrible news about Elizabeth. As the travel miles rack up, Matt and his daughters begin to appreciate the value of family and their feelings toward each other change in the most tragic of times.
What’s so brilliant about The Descendants is that it maintains the realism of the story unfolding in front of us without needing to gloss it over with over-the-top representations of the surroundings around the characters. Being set in Hawaii, director Alexander Payne could have easily showered the audience with postcard scenes and a sense of the unbelievable. Luckily, he is a director with talent and our story is far from the dream we are all expecting. Payne tugs at the heart strings and gives us a real appreciation of life with this, a magnificent follow-up to his previous hit Sideways.
Clooney is a worthy contender for Best Actor at the Oscars with an inch perfect representation of a father thrust into a world of the unknown and coping with multiple issues, whilst attempting to put a brave face on for those around him. He's humorous in places when its required and most importantly in moments where things take a turn for the worse he makes us care for the character. Additionally, the support from the likes of Amara Miller and the outstanding Shailene Woodley are nothing short of superb and utterly believable. Woodley will no doubt be seen in many films to come in the near future, with this, a performance to kick off her film career with a bang.
A comedy in parts but in main an emotional soul searcher of a movie, The Descendants is a beautifully made story of life, loss and how banding together is essential at times of need. Learning the lesson that wherever you live, whether it's paradise or not, we are all human and tragedy strikes everyone. I sincerely hope Mr Clooney and Mr Payne get the awards they deserve come February 26th. A masterpiece.
Film rating: 4 out of 5 F's