This is my favorite of all of George Clooney's characters. In The Descendants, Clooney is not awesome. He is not a badass. He doesn't have a charming smile (mostly because I don't think he smiles once in this movie). In The Descendants, George Clooney plays a character. And for The Descendants, he deserves an Oscar.
I haven't seen The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or The Artist yet, so as of now I'll say The Descendants is the best movie of the year. It's an extremely simple and moving story. Why the best of the year? Because I cared about these characters. A lot of movies have forgotten how important that is.
Matt King (George Clooney)'s wife has been in a boating accident. She's in a coma, and she's not going to get out of it. The Descendants is the story of his struggle to raise his two daughters and maybe prove to himself that he's worth something. The movie takes place in Oahu and Kauai, which is insanely refreshing. The Descendants explores the idea that maybe Hawaii isn't paradise. I've read that Alexander Payne (The excellent Sideways) has made a movie that is incredibly well-recieved by Hawaiians. Many responses have indicated that Payne has painted an incredibly accurate picture of what life in Hawaii is like.
The Descendants is extremely well-written. Based upon the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, Payne worked with two unlikely writers - Nate Faxon and Jim Rash, two oddball comedy actors. However, their screenplay is moving and beautiful. There are great moments of dialogue and even greater moments of emotion. I'd imagine there's a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for this one.
My favorite aspect of The Descendants is the music. Gorgeous, calming Hawaiian music plays for most of the movie. I noticed reading the credits that there is no original music written for this movie, similar to how Scorsese handled Shutter Island. I love this. It's an authentic tale from a beautiful and almost mystical land. Traditional tunes and melodies guide us through a well-told story.
Movies don't need to be about 100-foot transforming robots that can somehow hide in teenagers' backyards, or even little boys with Asperger's Syndrome running around New York City bothering people. Sometimes all you need is a story about a person. Because a story about transforming robots or messed up little kid is interesting and possibly heartbreaking, but a story about a guy having a tough time in life is relatable. The Descendants just wants us to care about the characters we're watching - and we do. Mahalo for that.