Hawaii, with its pristine beaches, lush landscapes, and welcoming local culture seems like a place where people go to escape their problems. But as Matt King, played by the ever-engaging George Clooney, describes in the opening of THE DESCENDANTS, living in paradise does not make you immune to misfortune. Matt, whose career has caused him to be away from his wife and two daughters, is solely responsible for an untouched piece of land inherited from his royal ancestors, and everyone in his family has an idea of what to do with it. However, that is the least of his worries. With his wife in an irreversible coma, Matt is struggling to keep his grieving family together and bond with his two daughters. He almost has everything under control when he learns that his wife had been having an affair and is sent into a tailspin.
Clooney finds the perfect balance between cynicism and sentimentality as he delivers his best performance to date. He handles painful moments like finding out his wife will not return to health, seeing his oldest daughter, Alexandra, fall back into bad habits, and confronting his wife’s lover, not with stoic, restrained, grace, but with bewilderment, frustration, and profound sadness. But, true to form, director Alexander Payne finds the time to include an undertone of humor in this sad story to make THE DESCENDANTS a well-rounded and enjoyable film for the holiday season.
The character of Matt King is almost antithetical to the debonair persona Clooney has built-up for himself. After learning about his wife’s infidelity, he throws on boat-shoes and runs down the winding streets like a maniac, flailing and panting in desperation to his wife’s friend’s house to find out the truth. Seeing somebody like George Clooney totally loose his composure, makes the character he plays more relatable and is a remarkable feat of acting. Clooney is sure to get an Oscar nomination, and deservedly so.
Be sure to catch THE DESCENDANTS, opening just in time for Thanksgiving at Violet Crown Cinema.