The Descendants (2011) – Alexander Payne (Friday’s Finest)

I caught for the second time on cable this 5 time nominated Academy Award movie including for Best Picture, which won for Best Adapted Screenplay. This American comedy-drama film is based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Kaui Hart Hemmings. This is the fifth film which features George Clooney at Obervationblogger, and despite him playing a man at his most distraught and despondent, his nuanced and refined performance in The Descendants is my favourite from him. The film was a critical and financial success, grossing $177 million against a $20 million budget. It features here at Friday’s Finest because of it’s indie feel and overall sensibility responding to complex emotional and interpersonal circumstances.

IMDB Storyline:
Attorney Matt King is having a difficult time coping with his life at the moment. His wife Elizabeth is in a coma in the hospital following a boating accident. His youngest daughter Scottie is acting out and in many ways Matt is forced to be a parent for the first time in a long time. Matt is also in control of a family trust, one that is set to expire in a few years time. The trust owns a huge tract of land – vigorously sought by developers – the sale of which would be of great help financially to many of his cousins. He fetches his eldest daughter Alexandra from school and in a heated argument learns that Elizabeth was having an affair and was going to divorce him. Matt sets out to see the man, but isn’t quite sure what he will say or do when he locates him.

As described in the above storyline Clooney’s character (Matt King) is given lots of crosses to bear and I’ll expand on that aspect a bit. He’s not a loser exactly, rather an odd sort of guy, totally lost and a bit inept which is a bit of a departure for Clooney. He even said he was attracted to the part because he so often has played characters that have their act together and the character ‘Matt’ clearly does not.

Matt King is a man who was always bogged down with his work and apparently a dull and too familiar husband. He didn’t get inside his wife’s world and think of her spirit, so she eventually looked elsewhere, before a terrible accident put her into a coma. He learns about his wife’s infidelity, but doesn’t have the option of confronting her with it. He is thrust into a new role – one he should have been in all along. We understand Matt not so much based on what he says but by his subtle expressions and visual cues. This is where Clooney really shined in his portrayal and well deserved contender for best-actor. It’s also worth mentioning the supporting cast especially the two girls who played his children with plenty of wit and warmth.

One of the underrated aspects of the film is the sensational cinematography of Honolulu where the movie is set. It makes the most of the picturesque Hawaiian locations and landscapes that makes me want to book a holiday there one day after I win the lottery! The use of traditional Hawaiian music on the soundtrack gave the film authenticity and added a lot to the mood of the story, especially in the more melancholic moments.

References:

1. Wikipedia – The Descendants 2011
2. IMDB – The Descendants

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Movies and TV

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