Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Video review: "The Descendants"
George Clooney is having a spectacular film career, but at the age of 50, he was about due for a shakeup.
For years now he'd been coasting by on roles that exploited his easy, natural charm and the rascally twinkle in his eye. Most of his leading men over the last decade fell into a recognizable pattern: loners who have a way with the ladies, but have difficulty making a commitment, to a relationship or to a cause.
Even his more ambitious roles, such as "Up in the Air," featured some variation on this character recognizing the inevitable dead end of his ways. It is notable that the men he plays are almost invariable single.
That's why "The Descendants," aside from being one of the best films of 2011, was a really bold choice for Clooney and a game-changer for the path of his career.
He plays Matt King, a harried, hectored married father of two daughters whose existence is thrown into turmoil when his life is left comatose in a skiing accident. A detached "backup parent" by his own admission, Matt cannot grasp the level of resentment directed at him by his oldest child, Alexandra (Shailene Woodley), until she reveals that Matt's wife had been cheating on him.
For once, Clooney was not playing the suave guy with all the answers, but the befuddled and very vulnerable man searching desperately for a way to make sense of it all.
Here's hoping that Clooney's career in his 50s will continue down this audacious path -- perhaps mirroring that of Jimmy Stewart, who set aside his aw-shucks persona for his most daring roles ("Vertigo," "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," etc.).
Video extras are long on quantity but a little short on quality. The DVD version comes with just three featurettes, one about Clooney's popularity, another about writer/director Alexander Payne and the third on the movie's Hawaiian setting.
Upgrading to Blu-ray essentially brings more of the same, with featurette titles like "Working with Water" and "Waiting for the Light." You do get a handful of deleted scenes, some music videos and a Q&A with Clooney and Payne.
Movie: 3.5 stars out of four
Extras: 3 stars