Okay yeah I’m late to the game on this one and yeah everyone has been raving about George Clooney’s performance. Quite rightly too, this is the strongest performance he’s given in years – his man trying to hold it together without exploding is Clooney at his subtlest. But for me the knockout in this movie is Shailene Woodley, the wild child older daughter, she dominates every scene she’s in and she’s spectacularly strong against Clooney. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She’s one to watch.
The other winning feature of the film is the writing, the script is incredibly impressive (adapted from the celebrated novel) and it does a great balancing act of giving equal measure to the two major plots of the film – a man reconciling his family in the wake of tragedy and the a man negotiating the terms of a land sale amongst his extended family. There are so many elements to the film that could easily slide into melodramatic soap opera but THE DESCENDANTS doesn’t do that – it takes a soft approach, a quieter, more personal tact to it – and it all comes off so well thanks to the work of its director Alexander Payne (Sideways). You can just the frustration and rage inside Matt (Clooney) but it never explodes – just spits – and it works so well.
The locations mugginess helps proceedings and the tropical landscape is gorgeous to look at. This is a classy comedic drama that was a breath of fresh air against the big action, loud spectacles of recent times and I got a real kick out it.
Keep your eyes on Shailene Woodley – she’s destined for great things.