MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
Each year, George Clooney throws his hat into the Oscar ring. This year, he’s thrown it in for several jobs on two different films. The superior film was “The Ides of March,” which he both directed and co-starred in. But not to be discounted is “The Descendants,” which earned him a Best Actor nomination.
The story behind “The Descendants” follows a Matt King (Clooney), one of the direct descendants of King Kamehahmeha in Hawaii. He and his cousins must dissolve a trust in charge of a huge area of pristine Hawaiian land that they have inherited. On the even of a decision to sell, Matt’s wife is involved in a boating accident, which leaves her brain dead. Matt has to break the news to his two daughters, and to work to foster his tenuous relationship with his oldest (Shailene Woodley). During this process, Matt learns his wife was having an affair, which gives him more to deal with emotionally.
“The Descendants” works precisely because of the people involved. The charisma of Clooney mixed with the balance director Alexander Payne strikes between drama and comedy make the film flow smoothly. Add to this some great supporting performances by Woodley (who was only mediocre in her series “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”) as well as underpraised acting by Matthew Lillard and Judy Greer, and you’ve got a solid film.
But “The Descendants” isn’t a perfect film in the least. On the whole, many of the characters were unlikeable and only seemed tolerable against the beautiful Hawaiian backdrop. Clooney’s character never really grows, in spite of the appearance that it does. He starts off the movie as an asshole who neglects his family. He ends the movie as only kind of an asshole who is dealing with his family because he has no other choice.
“The Descendants” is overrated, but it’s not a bad movie. It’s packed with great performances and beautiful locations. You won’t feel bad for choosing this movie to watch on a Saturday night.
The Blu-ray comes bundled with a DVD of the film and a Digital Copy disc for portable viewing. There’s also an impressive assortment of bonus features on the menu. Standard items include deleted scenes and music videos of “Honolulu’s Whisper,” “Will I Ever See You Again” and “Postcards from Paradise.”
Quite a few featuerttes are also included. “Everybody Loves George” heaps the expected love on star George Clooney. “Working with Alexander” offers similar love for director Alexander Payne. “The Real Descendants” examines the history behind the real descendants of King Kamehahmeha. “Hawaiian Style” looks at the local culture. “Casting” examines the process of choosing the actors. “Working with Water” looks at the challenges the production faced shooting on the ocean.
Additional features include “Waiting for the Light,” which looks at how hard it is to shoot in changing weather conditions. “The World Parade” is a vintage silent short film that profiles Hawaii. Finally, in “A Conversation with George Clooney and Alexander Payne,” the star and director chat about the movie for about 15 minutes.