It may not be the happiest movie of the year, but The Descendants is certainly one of the best films of the year. Nominated for numerous Oscars, the film tells a bittersweet story about one man’s journey of acceptance in a rather heartbreaking situation. Backed by a phenomenal cast, director Alexander Payne does a remarkable job at creating a movie that truly stands a part from it’s competition.
The world is changing for Matt King (George Clooney). His wife was involved in a terrible boating accident and has entered a coma. This tragic accident has made him realize that he needs to be move involved in his family’s life – that he needs to be a better husband and a better father. He’s ready to do just that when his wife wakes up. Only shortly after making this promise to himself, he learns that his wife’s coma is permanent. To make matters worse, Matt learns from his daughter Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) that his wife was actually having an affair – that she was planning to ask him for a divorce. Suddenly, the promises Matt made himself just fuel his anger for the situation. He is determined to find and confront the man that was sleeping with his wife – and that his wife apparently loved. The journey of acceptance and forgiveness not only seems to help him grieve, but it also brings him and his daughters closer together.
The film’s name hints at an underlining theme that is prevalent throughout the film – family. Family is the most important thing at the end of the day. In addition to Matt having to deal with what has happened to his wife, he has also had to deal with being responsible for the trust of his ancestors’ property. A multi-million dollar sale that his cousins are not so patiently waiting to cash in on. Between the seven cousins, there are only two that do not want to sell the breathtaking land (which I’m pretty sure was the exact location used in filming Jurassic Park – I mean I wouldn’t want to sell that either!). Also, add in that the scumbag that his wife was having an affair with being tied up with the company trying to buy the property from the family… it couldn’t get any worse. Matt has to make a decision on whether or not to sell when everything seems to be crashing down on him. The film does a great job at illustrating something we’ve all felt before, the age old statement of ‘when it rains, it pours.’ Only Matt’s situation is a bit more extreme than just a bad week.
George Clooney gives a great performance as Matt King. Easy to see why he received so much award season buzz this year. Shailene Woody also received a lot of attention, and while she did a fabulous job in the role (and her character evolved to handle the situation with admirable grace), I can’t say as it was an Oscar worthy role. She’s a strong actress, and I’m certain we’ll see great things from her in the future – but this wasn’t the award-winning performance that some gossiped it might be.
Special features on the regular DVD release include 3 featurettes: Everybody Loves George, Working with Alexander, and Hawaiian Style. It’s a little on the skimpy side, but that’s how they get you to buy the Blu-ray.
All-in-all, The Descendants is a beautiful and witty film that feels raw and real. There was a lot of buzz that it might take Best Picture at this year’s Oscars, but ultimately that honor went to The Artist. It’s impossible to compare the two films other than to say they’re both fabulous in their own way. The Descendants definitely lives up to the buzz, and if it wasn’t for that black and white film with the adorable dog – it would have without doubt taken home the award.
Review By: Emma Loggins