For a while I was thinking that the Oscar race had begun and ended with Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Crazy Stupid Love this summer and The Ides of March this fall. J Edgar, though not bad, was disappointing and I just have not seen too many movies that I would call “great.” However, The Descendants is the first movie I have seen since the usual start of Oscar rush that I think has a rightful place to be an awards contender.
The movie focuses on Matt King (George Clooney), a successful attorney, and trustee of a $500 million track of Hawaiian real estate who is dealing with a tragic boating accident involving his wife. Her prospects of a recovery seem slim and King’s problems are compounded by a bitchy 17 year old daughter and the revelation that his wife was having an affair.
This movie combines great everyday humor with end-of-life, gut-wrenching, soul searching. It never lets you forget the tragedy through excessive comedy, but it never gets you too sad without inserting some levity, which for the most part feels fairly realistic. Clooney is terrific, but so are the actresses that play his daughters and the actor that plays his older daughter’s friend and travelling companion (think of a dumber, surfing over football, less brooding version of Tim Riggins on Friday Night Lights).
I was wary of the movie simply because too often these types of films tend to fall in love with their own quirkiness and “realness,” while in the process forsaking plot and dialogue. This is not one of those movies. It is well done and thoroughly entertaining.
Final Grade – A-