alexander payne at his best is cutting edge, funny, and an envelope pusher. he took on abortion and statutory rape with his first two features and both were funny and entertaining. about schmidt was a step backwards in my opinion, but sideways was funny and engaging and maybe more mature than his previous films; certainly you couldn’t knock him for that. here, though, he takes another step back. again the film is about a man facing a crisis in his life, but this time it’s a wealthy, good looking george clooney not a midwestern school teacher or a huffing pregnant female or a (let’s say) less attractive and desperate alcoholic. the casting choice doesn’t work and even payne knows this. in his interview on fresh air he laments the fact that in order to get a movie made you have to have a star attached who is popular at the time that you’re looking for funding. when asked why clooney was right for this part, payne said “he’s the right age, he’s the right look and coloring for someone, one of those handsome rich guys out in hawaii…” he also said something about a sense of detachment that clooney exudes, but the first things he cited were: age, look and coloring. clearly something is missing in that answer.
as for the writing, which is usually quite sharp in payne films, it just lacked here. the situation that the film presents is difficult, but there’s just no snap to the dialogue or characters. here it is a week later when i’m writing this review and i can’t remember much about the film other than the look of it. yeah, it captured island living pretty well so i guess that was nice. it had some good laughs and at least one good character (the smart ass kid who tags along with clooney’s family the whole time). the kid actors were good and considering that fact i think that the film would have been better off following their perspective more than the adults. it probably would have made for a more dramatic and humorous film if we didn’t know about all the b.s. adult problems in the film – the land trust decision that clooney has to worry about, for example.Watched in theater