Now that the Oscars buzz has subsided, with the winners all declared, it’s gratifying to see that at least one Academy Award nominee has currently made it to local screens.
Although George Clooney was deemed a strong contender for best actor, he was overtaken by French actor Jean Dujardin from The Artist, but it’s well worthwhile to check out his performance in The Descendants, which took home an award for best adapted screenplay.
Clooney plays Matt King, a real estate lawyer living with his family in Hawaii. When his wife falls into a coma after seriously injuring herself in a waterskiing accident, the care of his two daughters falls solely to him.
He is totally at a loss as to how to deal with precocious 10-year-old Scottie, much less her older teenaged sister, Alexandra.
When King flies to the next Hawaiian island with his younger daughter to notify Alexandra of her mother’s condition, he’s met with a hostile reception from her at the expensive private school where he has sent her in hopes of dealing with her teenage rebellion.
Alexandra bears an inexplicable grudge against her mother, which she at first refuses to divulge. But when Matt finally finds out the reason, it’s enough to shake his world and his relationship with his wife.
Measured against his own anger is his helplessness in the face of his wife’s comatose condition.
A sub-plot involves King’s determination to preserve his family’s sprawling and lush prime Hawaiian real estate that’s been willed to him as administrator in trust.
He shares title with his many cousins, who want to sell the land to various developers offshore, but King wishes to keep it in local hands, or preferably not sell at all.
Clooney’s performance is superb and eminently true-to life, as is the outstanding work of newcomer Shailene Woodley, who plays his elder daughter. The Descendants is a sincere bit of filmmaking, not to be missed.
Meanwhile, Landmark Cinemas’ Filmtastic Films series continues this week, with the controversial and gritty Shame.
It’s a virtuoso vehicle for its lead actor, Matthew Fassbinder, recently seen in X-Men : First Class andInglourious Basterds. He plays Brandon Sullivan, a hip and handsome New York sex addict.
The role won Fassbinder the best actor award at last September’s Venice Film Festival.
There’s no particular pleasure in his preoccupation for Brandon, who constantly seeks out impersonal, detached sex, valuing it only for its orgasmic potential rather than any sense of intimacy.
Hookers, compulsive masturbation and one-night stands are his stock-in-trade, and his life is miserable.
It becomes even more so when his sister, Sissy, a needy, unhappy and homeless woman played by Carey Mulligan (recently featured in last year’s Drive) appears at the doorstep of his well-appointed condo.
The two have been long estranged from each other, and Brandon does not exactly welcome her with open arms.
It’s not just that her entrance into his life cramps his barren lifestyle, but that there’s a shadow of historical but unspecified familial dysfunction which hangs over their relationship.
Shame is probably a tough slog for puritans and prudes.
But in an age when adolescent sexting and the proliferation and omnipresence of loveless internet porn has become commonplace, it’s not hard to imagine that Brandon Sullivan’s proclivities may well become a societal norm.
The Descendants plays at the Yukon Theatre at 6:50 and 9:10 p.m., and is rated PG for coarse language.
Shame plays at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, March 11 and 7:00 p.m. Monday, March 12 only at the QwanlinCinema, and is rated NC-17 for explicit sexual content.
Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.