Directed by: Alexander Payne
Starring: George Clooney
Here’s one of George Clooney’s pet projects that got a lot of award time buzz. It won some Golden Globes but was mostly shut out at the Oscars. Often these sorts of films get way more praise and attention than they deserve and sometimes, once in a while, they actually deserve the attention they get.
George Clooney plays the husband in a marriage in disarray. He finds himself shaken awake when his wife ends up in a coma, and essentially on her death bed, after a boating accident. The story follows him on a journey to learn the truth about his wife and reconnect with his children. His wife it appears was having an affair and Clooney and his daughter decide to confront the home wrecking husband. Does this sound like a Lifetime Network movie? Well, yes it does, and for the majority of the film it feels like an expensively made Lifetime film. It’s set, and shot in Hawaii which of course takes the production value of the film up quite a bit.
There’s a secondary story about Clooney holding the majority control of a large parcel of land in Hawaii and the conflict he goes through with his family who are split on what to do with the property. Some of the family, most of them actually, want to sell the property and retire while Clooney is more conflicted about that. Selling would uproot a lot of the natives that live there and turn the beautiful land into a resort. This story had the potential to really offer up a quirky feel to the movie and make the overall experience more unique. There are a few splashes of that quirkiness and just when you feel the movie is going to commit to that sort of environment the director dials it all back to a paint by numbers Life time formula. This film desperately needed a shot of Wes Anderson to make it special.
Clooney is a great actor and he makes you want to see what will happen with his character but not even his on screen charisma is enough to make this film interesting. Along with Clooney there are a scant few of those previously mentioned quirky scenes and a great last shot of the film leading to closing credits. All of this just doesn’t add up to a film that deserved all of the attention it received during its theatrical run. I say this having seen the film twice now, once in the theater and a second time now on blu-ray. The whole time I watched, both times, I just kept thinking wow this could have been a good movie.
The 1080p presentation looks great. The colorful shirts and one or two good shots of Hawaii come through with all of the vibrancy and detail that you could hope for. Overall this film just isn’t a visual feast like you’d think it would be but what’s here looks great on this blu-ray. When we’re on the beach or getting to see the landscapes the presentation is gorgeous.
This is a pretty talky film so there isn’t a lot of opportunity for the soundscape to really show off. The best thing I can say is that the dialogue, which is at the center of a film like this one, comes through crisp, clean, loud and clear. There are a few instances where the audio gets the opportunity to come to life and when it does the 5.1 mix doesn’t disappoint with a nice dynamic range and surprising immersion.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
Featuring George Clooney on the cover of the blu-ray isn’t much of a ballsy marketing decision but at least it’s not one of those magical floating head affairs. The cover art is just sort of meh, kind of like the film itself.
There are a few featurettes on this disc that offer some background on the film but overall they come off like a mix of marketing speak and backslapping. One of the featurettes is even called “Everybody Loves George”! Come on this film did get an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay so it deserves one or two decent documentaries. There are some HD/blu-ray exclusive supplements that are a little more interesting than the standard ones available on the blu-ray and DVD. There’s a short featurette with a real Hawaiian descendant discussing how he remains true to his heritage and maintains his piece of the island. There’s also a sort video with the director and Clooney discussing the film and film in general. This feature is one of the best on the disc and it feels edited down. There are also deleted scenes, several music videos, trailers, and shorts about filming on water and waiting for magic hour that are HD exclusives too.
Some people will love The Descendants. If you’re a fan of Lifetime films than this is one of the best of that style of film ever made. The script is fine, the acting is top notch, but it needed a shot of uniqueness to make it a theatrical experience.
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10
The Movie 4/10
The Video 8.5/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10