Director: Alexander Payne
Cast: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer
Released: December 9, 2011
Viewed in theaters: February 16, 2012
Best Picture (lost to The Artist)
Best Director - Alexander Payne (lost to Michel Hazanavicus for The Artist)
Best Actor - George Clooney (lost to Jean Dujardin for The Artist)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash (won)
Best Editing (lost to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Living in Omaha I know I should be a huge fan of Alexander Payne and while it's cool that some of his movies have been set in my - and his - hometown (like Election and About Schmidt), I'm not a really big fan of his movies. They're by no means awful, just not my particular cup of tea. However, I have to say I really liked The Descendants and can say with absolute certainty that it is my favorite Alexander Payne movie.
Instead of taking place in Nebraska, like most Payne movies, this place take in Hawaii and while they do show the beautiful (and required ) shots of gorgeous sunsets and photographic beaches, they also show the everyday life of Hawaii and what probably most residents of the 50th (or is Alaska the 50th?...hmmm.....) are accustomed to. Hawaiians: they're just like us! (Except they have palm trees and nicer weather!)
George Clooney plays Matt King, a father of two girls who describes himself as the "back up parent". His wife is the one who takes care of their daughters while he is busy with work. His family owns quite a big percentage of land and he has to decide if he's going to keep or sell it. When his wife is in a bad boating accident and is told she most likely won't wake up from her coma, he has to learn how to be a parent again to 17 year old Alexandra (Shailene Woodley - she played Felicity in one of those American Girl TV movies! I had the Felicity doll!) and her little sister, Scottie (some annoying actress). Alexandra has been living in a boarding school because she's had problems with drugs and little Scottie is just annoying and a brat.
Matt never had a good relationship with his wife to begin with, so it's not a total surprise to the audience when we find out - along with him - that his wife had been having an affair with some guy Alex saw her mom with. Haha, when I first saw the guy I was thinking how much he looked like Matthew Lillard and it turned out it was him, duh. No offense to Lillard, but if you were married to George Clooney, why would you be having an affair with Matthew Lillard. That just does not make any sense! Well, at any rate, Matt finds out who the guy is and where to find him and confronts him about how he knows but is discreet about it because the other guy is married with two young boys.
I think this movie's strongest contenders for winning an Oscar are Best Adapted Screenplay and possibly Best Actor. So far Jean Dujardin has been winning most of the awards, but I wouldn't be totally surprised if Clooney came away with a win. His performance in this is much better than when he won in 2005 for Best Supporting Actor for Syriana. His Oscar would feel deserved and it wouldn't feel like they were giving it to him because he's George Clooney (which is what I felt when he won back then).
Stay tuned for my upcoming posts where I'll rank the nine Best Picture nominees and post my predictions for the Oscars!