Monday, October 17, 2011

NYFF Spotlight: The Descendants

I have the distinct pleasure this year of covering a few of the films that are being shown at the New York Film Festival. Most of these films do not yet have U.S. release dates, and therefore this can be considered a preview review.

The Descendants
Directed by Alexander Payne
To Be Released November 18, 2011

This film has been buzzed about as a surefire Oscar contender and potential crowd-pleasing Best Picture winner. It’s a movie that starts out a bit slowly but gradually gets better and better, combining a dramatic undercurrent with a good deal of humor and much-needed levity. Based on Kaui Hart Hemmings’ novel of the same name, “The Descendants” is a story tied closely to Hawaiian culture, following lawyer Matt King (George Clooney) as he deals with the untimely impending death of his wife and tries to pick up the pieces of his family and his business. It’s an extremely intimate story adapted and helmed by Alexander Payne, the man behind “Sideways,” “About Schmidt,” and “Election.” This film addresses powerful themes with appropriate gravitas but with an equally purposeful comedic slant that gives it a distinctive style. Clooney delivers a heartfelt performance as the worn-thin King, and the real breakout is Shailene Woodley as his foul-mouthed elder daughter Alexandra. Overall, it’s an engrossing and creative take on a somewhat familiar story with enough freshness and life to make it memorable.


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