Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Descendants: Movie Review


Scaling the Hawaiian country-side with tears and laughter.

"The Descendants" is set in Hawaii but Matt King (George Clooney) and his family are not on vacation. Far from it. King is actually in a line descended down from an old Hawaiian princess and has inherited a wealth of land. That's only the secondary plot. The primary plot is that his wife is in a coma and he has to learn how to be a parent to his two unruly daughters. Cue the laugh track.2011

Directed by: Alexander Payne

Screenplay by: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash

Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller

Somehow, appropriately, it is very funny. In a feel-good sort of way, not in a slapstick kind of way. Also surprisingly, and contrary to popular belief, it does have a direction and aim. The end point is pretty vague, our hero just has to find a way to live life the best he can. But to get to that end, it doesn't actually meander. Matt King has specific obstacles which he has to overcome. Namely, retrieving his 17 year-old daughter from boarding school, convincing his 10 year-old daughter to not wear her older sister's underwear, and most importantly, finding and confronting the real estate agent that was having an affair with his wife.

George Clooney looks like himself but a little more down-to-Earth and a little more down-trodden than usual. He makes you care for him and the laughs and bitter-sweet tears come easily. Just as appealing was Shailene Woodley as his 17 year-old daughter. She was the snarky, rebellious teenager, but with a warmth and understanding that made you realize it came from love and not born from Hollywood cliché.

Alexander Payne has written, directed and produced a number of excellent films beginning with "Citizen Ruth" (1996) and "Election" (1999), and continuing here, 'The Descendants" is a well written, well directed and well made film. I could end this review with the prosaic line that you will find tears and laughter on the way to meeting 'The Descendants"; however, this really isn't a prosaic film even if it does seem like one.

Best of 2011