On the Radar: George Clooney in ‘The Descendants’

Summer movie season is my least favorite time to go to the theater. The only good thing about it is when the summer starts to fade out and the excitement of the new Fall releases begins to percolate. These are usually the movies I want to see and this year looks no different. One film that I am especially excited about is The Descendants – and if you watch the trailer below, you’ll have a good idea as to why that is. First off, it is the first feature-length film written and directed by Alexander Payne since the amazing Sideways (2004), a film I thought belonged in the Top 10 movies of the decade. His short film, “14e Arrondissement” was, in my opinion, the very best to be included in Paris Je T-Aime. And now The Descendants, which looks like it has award nominations written all over it.

The movie looks like a tremendous vehicle for George Clooney. I have always liked Clooney, but have always felt that he fits ‘too easily’ in the roles that he takes on – even in those roles in which he has garnered much critical praise from. I am always thinking that, although quite convincing, he could have played these roles (Up in the Air, Three Kings, Out of Sight) in his sleep. From the looks of it, Matt King, the character he plays in The Descendants, gets him out of his comfort zone just a bit – and we, the audience, can perhaps have greater empathy for him this time around. Here, Clooney is trying to re-connect with his adolescent daughters after his wife suffers a terrible accident and falls into a coma. We can see that his relationship with his girls is strenuous at best – and when one of them breaks the news to him that their mom was having an affair, it shatters his world.

I can’t wait for the release of this movie. It looks like the typical grand fare that we have come to expect from Payne (Election and About Schmidt) – a wonderful blend of the tragic and lighthearted; heartbreaking and quite funny – with a pitch-perfect script and wonderfully sculpted characters to surround Clooney. I’m sure the Fall movies will bring with it much competition for Payne’s latest work – but for right now, I am eager to see what this movie brings.

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