DVD Review The Descendants
Directed by: Alexander Payne Cast: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Nick Krause, Robert Forster Running Time: 1 hr 55 mins Rating: R Due Out: March 13, 2012
PLOT: After his wife gets into a boating accident, Matt King (Clooney) tries reconnecting with his two daughters while overseeing the possible sale of a large piece of Hawaiian land that’s been in his family for decades.
WHO'S IT FOR? Fans of George Clooney and Alexander Payne should have no trouble finding plenty to like about this film. Those who appreciate a family drama that elicits tears as well as laughs should also take a look.
It takes a deft hand to successfully blend tragedy and laughs. I’m not going to pretend The Descendants pulls it off flawlessly – Nick Krause’s comic relief rubbed me the wrong way for much of the film – but overall it’s another winner from writer/director Alexander Payne.
Payne certainly didn’t achieve it alone. He once again surrounded himself with a talented cast and crew. At the forefront, naturally, is George Clooney. Clooney is an actor I always enjoy, and this is probably my favorite performance he’s given to date. Despite being blessed with insane amounts of movie star good looks and charisma, Clooney shines playing the ups and downs that his schlubby, Hawaiian shirt wearing character experiences. Even more impressive, however, is Shailene Woodley (who I was heartbroken to see left out come Oscar time) as Clooney’s angsty teen daughter. One powerful moment where Payne pushes in tight on her face underwater as she is overcome with emotion has stuck with me since I first saw the film.
Judy Greer, Robert Forster, Amara Miller, and even Matthew Lillard all turn in memorable supporting performances. The film also benefits from solid craft contributions courtesy Payne’s usual collaborators, especially the smart production design from Jane Ann Stewart. Combined with the way the film often shows a different, not exactly paradise side of Hawaii (though there is beauty to be found, particularly a gorgeous shot overlooking the family land Clooney’s character is thinking of selling), it all adds a lot of color and charm to the proceedings.
The DVD comes with three decent featurettes. “Everybody Loves George” is entertaining, if slightly superficial. “Working With Alexander” shows a little of how Payne works, but is most notable for the bizarre beginning and ending that features the filmmaker cooking eggs for the crew. The third, “Hawaiian Style,” is the most interesting, as it offers some insight into the production and Hawaiian culture. These aren’t a reason to buy this DVD, but they are worth a look if you do.
If there’s one other complaint I have, it’s that the voiceover heavy opening 15 minutes is rather weak – and is why I’d stop short of calling this one of 2011’s best. Luckily, the remaining hour and 40 minutes is very strong, making The Descendants a humorous, moving experience that I heartily recommend.
MOVIE SCORE: 8/10
Everybody Loves George
Working With Alexander