Friday, February 17, 2012

MUST WATCH FRIDAY: The Descendants

Riva/Harlequin Presents author Heidi Rice embraces George Clooney... Sorry, embraces the new George Clooney movie - a sweet, slow-burning but ultimately spot-on tale of a family in crisis.


Like many women of a certain age, I absolutely adore George Clooney, so he really can't do a lot wrong in my eyes. (I've even forgiven him for Batman & Robin, although that may have had something to do with that skin-tight rubber suit!). So I was prepared to be charmed when I went to see his new movie The Descendants with a good friend of mine recently. I didn't however expect to be entertained and moved and pretty much blown away with the emotional honesty of this film and its characters to boot.


Gorgeous George has been nominated for an Oscar for his role as a middle-aged father of two teenage girls in Hawaii whose wife is knocked into an irreversible coma after a boating accident. Matt King is the self-professed 'back-up parent'. He's never really been that present in his daughters' lives and now suddenly he's having to deal with the trauma of visiting his wife in intensive care, making decisions about turning off the life-support and being the 'up-front' parent to two young women he doesn't really know. Then he discovers that his wife was having an affair, and was about to ask for a divorce before her demise... And his life gets even more complicated as he takes his daughters and their stoner friend on a journey to locate and confront his wife's lover.

That premise probably sounds like a bit of a downer. But actually it isn't at all. Yes, it deals with some tough subjects — infidelity, parenthood, premature death, grief, etc — but it deals with them in an honest, believable way within the framework of a film that is all about character and not really about the crises that Matt faces. Clooney is indeed Oscar-worthy, his performance is wonderfully subtle, beautifully observed and defiantly unshowy. So unshowy in fact, that there were several moments when he reminded me of my own Dad (and as gorgeous as my Dad was, he was no George Clooney, folks!)

It's written and directed by Alexander Payne, who excels as this sort of slow-burning observational tragi-comedy. His last film seven years ago was Sideways — another deliciously character-conscious tale of two middle aged men going on a tour of California's wine country — so it's clear that Payne doesn't like to rush, and his patience and attention to detail is rewarded here.

Every single character in The Descendants, from Shailene Woodley's disaffected teen to Matthew Lillard's feckless philanderer, is 100% real. There are no gimmicks here, no last-minute revelations, no easy answers to the emotional challenges facing Matt and his family... The drama and the comedy build slowing and organically from the characters, which is why their journey resonates so much. And as it was a very cold night in London when we went to see it, the lush Hawaiian locations didn't hurt either!



Frankly, I haven't been so uplifted by a film in years. This is a gem of a movie. Go see it, give it time to work its magic and you won't be disappointed — even if you're not a woman of a certain age.


Heidi's latest Riva, The Good, the Bad and the Wild is due out in March in the UK, and just happens to be a linked book to her next Harlequin Presents Extra, Cupcakes and Killer Heels, which will also be out in March in the US. Contact her on her blog, on her website, on Facebook or Twitter (@HeidiRomRice)

10 comments:

  1. Really really enjoyed it! And yes, George made me think of my Dad as well. The sort of exasperated loving look he gave me when I was a teenager.

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  2. Isn't that the truth Biddy!! George Clooney as EveryDad, who'd have thunk it!

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  3. What a great review Heidi, it's the icing on top of the cake to convince me to see it. When I heard it was about a middle aged dad who discovers his wife's had an affair i rolled my eyes thinking oh.my.gosh... I though George did great movies with interesting characters... friends who have seen it HIGHLY recommended it and now I'm totally convinced... I should have known it'd be great because GC's in it :)))

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  4. I'd definitely recommend it. It's a slow burn but well worth it.. And well, George is a slow burn all his own, right!

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  5. It's nice to know what's worth seeing. It's all Bollywood in my neck of the woods, you see, and nice as it is, I do need films I can relate to sometimes. I shall be on the lookout for this one! Thanks Heidi!

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  6. You're welcome Maria.... Although now you've got me fantasising, about George in a Bollywood film!! Coolio

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  7. Can't go wrong with Clooney! And I loved your Cedar Rapids recommendation. Will definitely be checking this one out.

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  8. Oh cheers Aimee, so glad you enjoyed Cedar Rapids! this is another little gem IMHO (with added Clooney!)

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  9. I saw snippets of this on the BAFTAs and thought it looked really good - will definitely have this on the to-buy list!

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  10. I think you'll love it Kate, as we all know you're a woman of discerning taste... Antonio, gelati, need I say more!!

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