All those years ago, who would have guessed that guy from the "E.R." TV show would be a well-liked and respected actor/director?
Well, yet again, Clooney discreetly steps into the spotlight with a performance that many are calling his best to date and awards are rightly expected to follow. This is due to the man himself with his effortless charm and his ability to pick roles that elevate him and the film to memorable heights.
Here he teams up with director Payne who gave the seriously-themed films About Schmidt and Sideways a surprising element of humour that ended up pushing the darker aspects of the stories into the background but never ignored them. Here, this trend continues with what would normally read as a dark tale of a man dealing with the hat-trick of a comatose wife, the discovery of her infidelity and thus becoming a full-time parent to their kids during her absence/sickness. In other hands, this could have been a very somber affair but with Payne's light touch and Clooney's comedic talent, the life lessons learned throughout become that much more palatable, and highly enjoyable.
Clooney deserves the attention for his performance (although his Up In The Air turn is still his best work in my opinion) but alot must be said for the characters that he gets to bounce off of, in particular the two daughters (Woodley and Miller as the 17 and 10 year olds) and their laid-back but ultimately inspiring teenage dude friend, Krause. It is he who gets to be involved in two of the films best surprises - an unexpected display of violence and a surprising piece of information divulged that changes your perception of him in at instant.
What they have managed to do from the source material is create a roller coaster of emotions, swinging from tender, emotional moments that can bring the viewer to tears - Woodley's reaction to the news of her Mother by screaming under water and the family unit casually snuggling up on the sofa all comfortable with each other - through to the laugh-out-loud sequences - Clooney's bizarre run to confront friends about his wife's betrayal and his one attempt at discipline to one of his incredulous daughters.
Never dull and always full of witty dialogue and heart-felt interactions between actors delivering performances worthy of your time and effort, The Descendants is one of those films that deserves to be nominated in all awards ceremonies and to end up on your DVD shelf but go see it in the cinema so your probable tears won't be seen by your fellow viewers.
UK release date: 27.01.12