Like Payne’s usual fare, the plot deals with characters in amongst a period of transition. In this case it is George Clooney’s Land Baron who begins to bond with his two daughters after his wife goes into a coma. Of course things aren’t so simple as he soon discovers that his wife was on the verge of divorcing him. This sets him off to track down her lover to break the news, whilst he contemplates whether to sell his families patch of land.
Payne has a real talent for bringing out the ludicrous aspects of everyday life and The Descendants is no different. He knows how to put characters into awkward situations which give off the most drama. For instance the big exchange between Clooney and his wife’s lover (Matt Lillard) has to be one of the most joyously uncomfortable exchanges for many a year. But whilst maintaining a strong sense of humour throughout, it also manages to be an extremely touching.
This is not only due to a strong script, but also Clooney’s performance which is his best for years. His ability to portray such a conflicted character with such subtly gives an initially alien plot a sense of realism. His journey from a depressed and isolated figure to becoming the father his children needs is a gripping and believable transition. Also great is Shailene Woodley who plays Clooney’s eldest daughter. The relationship between the two is magnetic and they certainly have the best scenes together as we see the bond between them grow. Both are worthy of any Academy Award Nominations thrown their way, and Clooney has already been acknowledged by BAFTA.
The Descendants is certainly one of the best films of the year thus far and one of the most deserving pictures this awards season. Its seamless ability to mix drama and humour creates a story which is both ‘real’ and heart warming.