The Descendants ★★★★★
(USA, 115 min.)
Dir. Alexander Payne; Writ. Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash.
Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Robert Forster, Judy Greer, Nick Krause, Matthew Lillard.
the best film I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. The Descendants stars George Clooney as Matt King, a hard-working realtor who finds himself in a quandry when the time comes to take his wife off life support, as she is in a vegetative state after a boating accident. Matt discovers that his wife was unfaithful, and he undertakes the horrible task of confronting his wife's lover (Matthew Lillard) so that a) he can accept his wife's infidelity and b) her lover can say goodbye before Matt pulls the plug. It might sound dark, but this story of the King Family Tree is one of the smartest, funniest, and warmest films this year.
Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, which I have yet to read but is next on my reading list as I finish the last pages of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Descendants is another impeccably written film by Alexander Payne. As I wrote in my review during the festival, "Payne does a remarkable feat of balancing the heart and the humour of the film. The Descendants has the rare skill of being able to elicit uproarious laughter one moment, but then prompt tears the next. In his first film since Sideways, Payne makes a film that is equally strong as his last one, but in some ways, The Descendants more neatly blends the flaws and follies of everyday folks. The Descendants is a sharp, funny, and endearing story of family ties."
The best of the festival and now one of the best of the year, one could also call The Descendants "sheer perfection from first frame to last." (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)
The Descendants plays in Ottawa at AMC Kanata, World Exchange, and Silver City Gloucester