Archive for the ‘Descendants; The’ Category

The Descendants – review

PhotobucketDirector Alexander Payne can pretty much do no wrong in my book.  His films consistently make my best of lists in the years they are released.  Sideways was near perfection, but I feel like Payne is one film away from making his complete masterpiece. 

The Descendants stars George Clooney as Matt, a father who’s wife is in a coma after a boating accident.  Matt and his wife live in Honolulu, and he is a successful lawyer who has a long Hawaiian family history.  His great great great grandparents owned a whole bunch of land which has since been passed down to him and his cousins.  He is the trustee of all of that land and the family needs to sell it off within the next 7 years, or else they will lose the land all together.  He has to deal with all of this as his wife lay dying in a hospital.  He is also left to deal with his two daughters Alex, 17, and Scottie, 10.  Scottie is a rambunctious child who says whatever comes to her mind.   She probably got a lot of that from her older sister.

Matt decides he needs to pick up Alex, who is on another Hawaiian island for boarding school, and bring her home to help him deal with her mothers condition.  We learn early on from Alex, that her mother was cheating on her father.  This sets in motion an entire chain of bizarre and crazy events, as Matt seeks out to find the truth about his wife.  Perhaps he didn’t know her as well as he thought.

Alexander Payne is meticulous in trying to understand the relationships between the characters he sets forth in his films.  He makes them seem so real to us that we can or could relate to them if we were ever thrust into their situation.  What’s great about Alexander Payne films is that their is a lot of subtle humor within them.  Even in the worst of times, and the most life-changing of times, humor finds a way to sneak in there and break the tension.  He is so good at splicing those moments into the film.

We all know by now that George Clooney is the man.  He’s fantastic as always as Matt, a grieving yet caring, and some what lost father, just trying to make sense of all of this.  He goes through an entire range of emotions as he learns more and more about his wife, and attempts to deal with the weight of the world on his shoulders.  Who is really surprising though is Shailene Woodely as his daughter Alex.  I’m not very familiar with her work, but she’s great as the somewhat rebellious, head-strong teenager that helps her father through everything, and grows closer to him as the film progresses.

This is a really touching film that is heart-breaking at times, painful to watch at times, but full of joyful and fulfilling moments.  I stated before that Payne may be one film away from making a masterpiece, but it occurs to me that perhaps all his films may be of that caliber.  He is a director that truly can do no wrong.

Look for Clooney to snag yet another Oscar nomination, and Alexander Payne to as well, either in direction, but most certainly for best adapted screenplay.

Grade:  A