There were a lot of reasons I wanted to see The Descendants. I'm a big fan of director Alexander Payne's previous movies: Sideways, About Schmidt and Election. I enjoy George Clooney's laconic Cary Grant shtick and was intrigued by the awards buzz surrounding his latest performance. And the film's set in Hawaii, so if nothing else we could be sure it'd be nice to look at.
As with all Payne's prominent work, The Descendants is a leisurely, spacious film that allows much time for subtle characterisation and quietly observed comedy. I'd say it probably made me laugh less than any of the films listed above, but then I did make the mistake of popping to the loo during what Louise later informed me had been the funniest scene. That said, it did make me smile a lot and Clooney was charming and sympathetic as ever. Was it his best role? No, he was far better in O, Brother Where Art Thou? where he actually got to do some proper acting, rather than just playing himself. But it's his time, there's a lot of good will towards him, and there are far worse movie stars getting far more recognition, so I don't begrudge him the plaudits. Some attention must however be given to his kids, played by Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller, both of whom inhabit their complex roles with ease, and the dumb teenage layabout Sid (Nick Krause), who gets dragged along on their adventures and ultimately proves to be there for more than just clichéd comic relief. As for Hawaii, I was impressed by how Payne showed us a different side of the islands than we usually get from Hollywood. Still beautiful, but a little more rainy and windswept with random chickens scattering the streets and fallen leaves filling the swimming pools. It made me want to visit even more.
If you enjoyed Payne's previous films, you'll enjoy The Descendants. Arguably, it's not his best work, but it's another fine addition to the cv for both him and Clooney. And there's a Beau Bridges cameo too, looking almost more dudelike than even his brother could manage.