If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Whether you love him for his charm or you hate him for his smugness, you can not deny the fact that George Clooney is one of the greatest Hollywood personalities working today. He's been the ideal man for plenty of women over the years and he's proven himself to be a man's man at the same time. Sure he did Batman & Robin but even he admits that it was absolutely terrible but in a way, it was the movie that changed his whole career. While the housewives and the teenage girls got their regular taste of him on ER, that movie not only got him the attention of us little kids but it also made him realize that there was nowhere to go but up and ever since then, he's delivered an incredible résumé of films that we all know and love. To be fair, he's had a few arguable missteps along the way with stuff like The Perfect Storm, Ocean's Twelve, The Good German, Leatherheads and The Men Who Stare at Goats but for the most part, he's managed to make himself one of the most prestigious actors and filmmakers in modern day. Whether it's From Dusk till Dawn, Three Kings, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the original Spy Kids trilogy, Good Night, and Good Luck, Syriana, Michael Clayton, Up in the Air or Ocean's Eleven, everyone has at least one George Clooney movie that they absolutely love (if not more) and will watch over and over again over the years.
This year, Gorgeous George proves once again that he's still got it. While his directing and writing were some of the best parts of The Ides of March, it's his acting in this film that will really remind people of how incredible this guy can be. At times it can be too easy to put someone like George Clooney aside simply because he's so good all the time or because of his natural charm, charisma and good looks but this role is the one that many have been waiting for him to play ironically enough. For the past few years, Clooney has managed to use his age as his greatest asset and it's worked very well for him but this strangely is the best of them and what's strange about it is the fact that it's the roughest he's looked since Syriana and even then, he doesn't even look half as bad as that. But that's what makes Alexander Payne such an amazing director and the proof in the pudding of his technique started with Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt. Unlike a lot of other directors, Payne can take an iconic and legendary actor like Nicholson or Clooney and boil them down into normal people who are incredibly human. If one can even look through a certain eyeglass, they could even say that Nicholson's Warren Schmidt and Clooney's Matt King are pathetic kinds of people but in a very sad and touching way that really fleshes out the pathos in both of their situations in life.
In the case of this film, Clooney plays Matt King, a workaholic of a lawyer in Hawaii, who has to deal with the recent tragedy of a wife who has fallen into a coma and having to come to terms with stepping up as the alpha parent to his two daughters. In the light of said events, he discovers some incredibly dark secrets concerning his family and not only has to deal with the incredible amount of pain that’s been dealt to him but has to come up with the best solution possible to try and benefit the lives of himself and his daughters, Alexandra and Scottie. Despite the fact that it’s an Alexander Payne film or that it’s another movie about George Clooney playing up his age once again, this really is one of the best films in recent memory because from start to finish, you just get so attached to every single thing that’s happening. Every situation is realistic, every character is relatable, every performance is incredible and nuanced, and it’s very the definition of what a great tragicomedy should be. It’s also much more than just a movie because of the sheer humanity and heart that it delivers with every single frame and it really shows that even if you’re living in Paradise, you still have to deal with the hardships of life.
Even though George Clooney has been the main focus, his performance in this film validates that. This is probably the best performance he’s ever given in his career as an actor. Now, as a movie star, one would have to say that his best role was Danny Ocean since he was not only able to distinguish himself apart from Frank Sinatra but he was also able to elevate what the Rat Pack tried to do with that original concept and that’s saying a lot for someone like George Clooney. He was charming, debonair, cool and just fun to watch but in this movie, all of that dissipates and we get to see the broken man that’s torn on what to do and it’s really compelling to watch because he leaves a lot of what’s going on in hid mind up to the viewer. It’s the most restrained he’s ever been, it’s the subtlest he’s ever been and he’s the most human he’s ever been on screen and it’s just amazing to watch as he just tries to deal with all the chaos that’s going on in his life that’s really out of his control.
But Clooney is just the first person to notice because he’s the lead. Both Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller do magnificent acting in this movie as his two daughters and it’s pretty clear that both of these girls have the potential to go on to do bigger and better things. These two daughters are placed together perfectly because they are polar opposites and it’s really great to see how their dynamic works. Woodley is bitter while Miller is joyful. Alexandra is along for the ride with the whole family drama right from the start before the beginning of the film and Scottie is only aware of the core problem at the very end and even then, she’s left in the dark but ultimately for the best at the time being. Shailene Woodley is compelling to watch while Amara Miller is utterly enjoyable to watch. Either way, both girls do a fantastic job and really bring that element of contrast between seriousness and comedy together in a beautiful way.
Robert Forster has the best cameo in a while in this film, Judy Greer surprisingly delivers a really touching performance and not enough words can be said for how great Matthew Lillard was! Who ever thought that the guy who played Shaggy in Scooby-Doo could be so great? While he may have been good in Scream and really funny for what he was given in Without a Paddle, it was seriously shocking to see him pull off such a complex character. Many have seemed to have forgotten how good he truly is and he just brings this texture and weight to the character of Brian Speer that’s almost unheard of in most Hollywood films. Matthew Lillard may have been a late bloomer but he better be prepared for the next wave of scripts that may be coming in because he’s just siply that great in this movie. This is a role that is so perfect for him to prove what he can do because he takes the assumingly scummy appearance that his character’s been given throughout the film and he truly lends an authenticity that completely changes your view on who this guy is and in a way, one could even empathize with the situation that he’s put in even though he looks like a total scumbag from the outside.
Yet out of all the actors, the biggest surprise to me was Nick Krause who plays Sid, a real surfer dude who’s the best friend to Shailene Woodley’s Alexandra. One would easily assume that he would be the easily disposable love interest to Woodley’s Alexandra but thankfully, Alexander Payne takes a trip off the beaten path with his audience and he makes even the dumbass stoner an incredibly sympathetic human being who actually has a very sad reason for being the way that he is. Some might think that his character was ultimately unnecessary but if he wasn’t in the movie, then this movie might have been all the more depressing and he did an amazing job lightening up the mood but being very human about everything that’s going on at the same time.
One could go on and on about how great this film is but that would distract other people from discovering it and people who haven’t seen this film need to see it as soon as they can. It has the perfect screenplay with the perfect balance of comedy and tragedy, truly career-defining performances from every one of its actors, an unbelievably gorgeous backdrop of Hawaii, a brisk pace that never lets up, and a universally human story that’s applicable and relatable to absolutely everyone. Go see this at your earliest opportunity because it truly is a great film!
Rating: High Full Price!!