The Descendants

Normally a George Clooney vehicle movie would not draw  me but the reviews and his Oscar (c) nomination got me thinking. When our special correspondent  – Catherine –  suggested it, I said why not. It is said that without pathos there is no comedy, there is plenty of pathos in this movie and more than enough comedy to prevent it from being as dark as it might otherwise be. There are a number of laugh out-loud moments, but it is the more subtle humour, often situational, that is far more affecting and adds to the film’s appeal.

Of course being a fan of Alexander Payne’s all to scarce work helped make the decision. So what about the movie? Well it is very much a Payne work and a Clooney vehicle, I don’t think there was a scene without Clooney in it. This is a dangerous gamble, if the lead fails so does the movie. In this case he probably gave the best performance of his career, every scene added to the experience even where he clumsily ran to his friends’ home in his sandles.

If I have one criticism of the movie it is in the publicity material, only Clooney’s name gets major billing; his co-star Shailene Woodley deserves co-billing for her part as his 17 year old daughter. I should also mention Amara Miller who plays her troubled 10 year old sister.

The movie revolves around Clooney’s attempts to bring up his daughters and come to terms with his wife’s deteriorating health as they essentially wait for her to die following a boating accident.  While this dominates family life there is the back issue of he trying to manage the sale of a large area of land which is in an extended family trust. As difficult as all this is, he learns of his wife’s infidelity and seeks our the other man.

As if life was not hard enough already, his daughter “Alexandra”, with whome he has a troubled relationship,  insists on her friend “Sid”, played by Nick Krause accompanying her during the dark days ahead. In a Cassablanca momment later in the movie we learn of just why Sid is so important to Alexandra and the entire family.  In many ways  this fine film in rather like “Little Miss Sunshine” – a road movie about a troubled family as they rise to life’s challenges and try to come out the other side without being too damaged.  How they actually end up is something you will have to watch the movie to find out.

In short this is a fantastically engaging movie where only the worst sociopath could not empathise with just about all of the wonderfully scripted cast in the King family. Payne has two more movies out next year…good! time to dig out Sideways again.

Rating = 8/10 – the movie is not flawless, but what little falws there are are not worth talking about  – watch it, enjoy it

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