How does George Clooney do this? In Michael Clayton, Up in the Air and now The Descendants and many in between, he plays the Everyman in crisis, who makes life-changing decisions quietly with a wry smile and crinkle in his eyes — what a smile and what a crinkle!
He might have traded his crisp white shirts and the corridors of corporate America for shorts and outsize shirts in heart-breakingly beautiful Hawaii as Matt King in Alexander Payne's lovingly put together The Descendants. But he is still Mr. Everyman trying to come to terms with all that life throws at him.
Based on a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, The Descendants tells of King, a lawyer, whose life is thrown into disarray when his wife, Elizabeth, is in a coma after a boat accident. Matt who describes himself as a “backup parent” suddenly has to deal with his younger daughter, 10-year-old Scotty's inappropriate behaviour at school and his elder daughter, 17-year-old Alex's substance abuse.
Matt also has to deal with Elizabeth's parents who accuse him of being stingy and denying Elizabeth a good life. In the midst of this, Matt also has to take a decision about selling 25,000 acres of land to developers. Matt rightly observes the family is a metaphor for the archipelago where each person is an island loosely connected but drifting apart.
The Descendants has been nominated for five Oscars, including for best picture, actor, editing, director and adapted screenplay. Though the movie deals with mortality, it is incredibly funny. Sid, Alex's slacker friend who is just hanging around, creates a sense of balance with his lazy observations. Even the most overwrought moments are lightened and saved from being over the top by hilarious asides and reactions. It is a movie where you laugh as hard as you would weep.
Smartly written and excellently acted by an ensemble cast headed by the excellent Mr. Clooney as Matt and Shailene Woodley as Alex, The Descendants is that rare award film that delivers important life lessons in light, airy (but in no way shallow) packages.
Director: Alexander Payne
Cast: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Judy Greer, Nick Krause
Storyline: A lawyer and landowner relooks at his priorities after his wife meets with an accident
Bottomline: A pitch perfect movie