Cast: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller
Running time: 110 minutes
The Descendants won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and a couple of Golden Globes for Best Picture (Drama) and Best Actor (Clooney).
Alexander Payne, who directed this movie, has quickly become the darling of film critics after well received and award-winning films like Sideways, About Schmidt and Election, and the trend that began with those films continues with this one – a tragic-comic tale of a beleaguered male protagonist coming to terms with his fractured life by redefining his values, usually after a journey of some sort. If you liked those other movies mentioned above, chances are you will like this, too.
Clooney plays Hawaiian lawyer Matt King, a direct descendant of Hawaiian aristocracy, who has a mountain of issues to deal with stemming from a speedboat accident that put his wife in a coma. He has to play a bigger role in the lives of his two daughters; 17-year-old Alexandra (Woodley) is behaving badly in boarding school and 10-year-old Scottie (Miller) is a conflicted adolescent who alternates between bullying and being bullied at school.
If that wasn’t enough for Matt, he also has to make a crucial decision that affects the extended family clan – his cousins are pressuring him into signing away a large swathe of their family heritage land in return for some quick millions. To top it all off, he discovers that his wife, was having an affair before she had the boating accident.
Clooney does a commendable job playing the stressed out Matt and to his credit, Clooney’s recent performances have been getting better, moving away from pure matinee idol kind of roles towards meatier characters but I still think he’s not in the same class as actors normally up for industry awards.
The supporting roles in this film were truly great (the two daughters were especially good), and that elevates this film from a Sunday afternoon movie to something just that little bit more engaging.
Director Payne, is one of the best around at combining heartfelt drama with a generous dose of comedy and his deft touch is evident here, too.
Overall this was an enjoyable movie, that has furthered the careers of both Payne and Clooney but I still feel that the acclaim that this movie generated was perhaps a little over the top. While there are some sexual references and some minimal language issues, this film is still recommended family viewing. - Review by S.N.