The Descendants

Posted 7 years ago by myetvmedia

9/10

No one would argue against the claim that George Clooney is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. His films are regularly amongst the highest grossing and his name alone can carry a film, even the many stinkers he himself has chosen (remember ‘Batman’, or his rat pack obsessed Danny ‘Ocean’ sequels). All the more credit to the mega star for his recent spate of smart choices and splendid performances in ‘Michael Clayton’, ‘Up in the Air’ and now this remarkable gem The Descendants, directed by Alexander Payne (Sideways, About Schmidt)

Clooney plays Matt King, a father of two girls Scottie, aged ten and Alexandra, seventeen. Matt is thrust into active parenthood by a sudden and tragic boating accident that has left his wife in a coma with no prospect of revival. Enough that he has been told by the doctor that his wife will soon die, his youngest is ‘acting out’, routinely dishing out her middle finger; he also discovers, courtesy of Alexandra, that his wife had been having an affair with a local real estate agent – a secret Matt and Alexandra are determined to flush out. Matt wants to know ‘if she loved him?’ Given the circumstance, an angry Alexandra wants to confirm if both her parents love her. As Trustee of the King Estate, Matt is also directing the sale of a sprawling estate of virgin land on a Hawaiian island, the lasting legacy of an inheritance from his royal great grandparents. His cousins cannot agree on the moral question of whether to sell to Developers or to retain the property in its virgin state for future generations – thus The Descendants.

Payne beautifully sets the story forward, contrasting the lush virgin land, simple in its beauty, rational and pristine against the complicated and murky universe of Matt’s family. And Matt is thoroughly confused and drifting, but Payne gives him an anchor in Alexandra (watch the very promising Shailene Woodley) to confront a bitter father-in-law whose wife suffers from Alzheimers, his unruly tween daughter and a spate of cousins who only see mega dollars in the family trust’s lands. Unlike the cynicism found in Payne’s ‘About Schmidt’ and ‘Sideways’, redemption is much closer at hand in ‘The Descendants’.  The film also authentically captures the somewhat awkward family moments in death and dying when shock, remorse, love and anger are indiscriminate. It is these awkward moments where Clooney achieves new depths as a performer – in a change of pace for the actor, he can only fix things by fully embracing his character’s vulnerability and complexity of emotions. The Directors gaze does not gloss over the pain and confusion of the King family. He lays them bare and many eyes in the theatre will certainly well up in this powerful and sometimes very funny drama. Clooney deserves serious consideration come Oscar time, as does Director Alexander Payne. 

Alfredo Romano

 

 

 

The Descendants has an all star cast featuring established stars and rising young talent including George Clooney, Judy Greer, Beau Bridges, Shailene Woodley, and Mathew Lillard. Directed by Alexander Payne (Academy Award Winner Sideways), the story focuses on an Hawaiian land baron, Matt King (Clooney) who’s wife Elizabeth is on life support after a tragic boating accident. Matt becomes the ‘backup parent’.


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