The buzz first started in Telluride, but now it’s traveled across the border to Toronto: there is a leading candidate for best actor this year and his name is George Clooney.
The central figure in Alexander Payne’s long awaited return, “The Descendants,” Clooney plays Matt King, a Hawaiian lawyer trying to grapple with the fact his wife has been in a coma for a few weeks after a major boating accident. The film debuted at the Telluride Film Festival a little over a week ago and has received rave reviews in Toronto as well. In conjunction with the film being screened at Telluride, the Labor Day weekend festival also bestowed on him a career achievement award. Part of the deal in receiving the festival’s silver medallion is that you conduct two retrospective talks with patrons over the weekend. Fox Searchlight has now provided Awards Campaign with a nice chunk of one of those discussions with two great clips from the movie included.
At first Clooney talks – while a very solemn Scout Foundas of the New York Film Society looks on – about how sometimes you have to wait for the right time in your life to play a role such as King. The tribute then cuts to a great scene in the film where King is dealing with raising his two daughters, Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and Scottie (Amara Miller), on his own.
The talk then transitions to Payne’s talent on switching moods quickly in a scene. Clooney notes, “He has a way of turning things so quickly. Things will be very funny and then very sad – on a dime. And it’s a real skill. It’s not something you have to learn and I don’t know many people who do.”
The tribute than segues to one of the most memorable moments in the picture. Walter, Alexandra and Alexandra’s friend Sid (Nick Krause) are visiting Alexandra’s grandparents (Robert Forster and Barbara L. Southern) to let them know their daughter is going to be taken off life support. Alexandra’s grandmother is suffering from dementia and the disrespectful Sid says the wrong thing at a serious time and, well, pays the price. But as Clooney noted, it’s a quick change of tone that’s both believable and entertaining at the same time.
You can watch both clips with Clooney’s thoughts from Telluride embedded in the post above.
“The Descendants” opens on Nov. 18.
For year round entertainment commentary follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory.