The Descendants

  • 2012-02-08
  • By Laurence Boyce

Director: Alexander Payne

Known for such films as “Sideways” and “About Schmidt,” director Alexander Payne has created a market for popular American Independent Films about men facing a crisis late on in their lives. “The Descendants” – currently being touted for many an award – follows the same tack, as a man finds out that his comfortable life hides the discontent of his entire family.

George Clooney plays Matt King, a wealthy landowner who seemingly pays little attention to his wife and children. However, after an accident, his wife ends up in a coma and Matt is forced to look after his daughters (including one grumpy teenager) and deal with his wife’s perilous situation. He soon discovers that his wife was having an affair and must confront the reality that life is not as simple as it seems.

There’s a lot to like in this film from the subtly funny ideas woven into the drama alongside an often witty script. Clooney is excellent doing the ‘world weary everyman’ that has become something of his trademark of late and he deserves the numerous ‘Best Actor’ accolades he has been receiving. There are also top marks for Shailene Woodley who is brilliant as his brattish yet sympathetic daughter, and Robert Forster makes a fine extended cameo as the bad-tempered father-in-law.

Aside from the strong dialogue, the Hawaii location provides a different feeling from the usual identikit LA/New York films we’ve seen out of the US as of late, and the setting of the laid back atmosphere of Hawaii provides juxtaposition with the upheavals in King’s life. There are one or two moments when it seems a bit too pleased with itself – the whole idea of ‘being true to one’s ancestors’ seems rather labored and obvious – but these moments are few and far between.
Look for this to deservedly pick up more awards over the coming months. 


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