The Descendants (15)
Directed by: Alexander Payne
Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller
Running Time: 115mins
A land baron tries to re-connect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a boating accident.
Matt King (George Clooney) is a very wealthy trustee of over 20 acres of the most beautiful land on one of the Hawaiian Islands. For all of his wealth though, he lives by modest means from the salary he earns as a lawyer.
Upon hearing that his estranged wife has suffered life threatening injuries from a boating accident, Matt must reconcile with his two daughters 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller) and 17-year-old Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and help them with traumatic experience.
Whilst struggling to re-adjust to spending time with his daughters, Matt must also finalise a land deal which will see him and his numerous cousins sell off their land which will make them all very rich. All of which is taking place during the final days of his wife’s life. As if this isn’t traumatic enough, Matt finds out that his wife was having an affair.
He therefore decides to track down his wife’s lover and to confront him before her life expires, but how he’ll react when he sees him is another question…
The Descendents is a superb film that right from the outset grips the audience with witty dialogue told at times through a monologue by Matt. George Clooney portrays the role of a father at odds with his daughters whilst struggling to come to terms with them growing up with such style, humour and emotion that the audience simply cannot help but sympathise with him.
The acting from the entire principal cast is also another of the film’s strong points. Both Amara Miller and Shailene Woodley take turns in stealing scenesand at times it’s difficult to remember that they are just actors and not real siblings. Alexandra’s boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause) is also on fine form as his character deepens throughout the film, from at first being a typical insensitive teenager to providing Matt with some advice later on in the movie.
There are also notable performances from Beau Bridges, Robert Forster and especially Matthew Lillard as Brian Speer, who plays a pivotal role later in the movie.
Indeed, this film is without doubt a great character piece, both in dialogue and in direction. Director Alexander Payne has provided his audience with a movie that is both sentimental and humorous at the same time, much like his earlier movie Sideways. At no point is the audience left to think that the story or the characters are unbelievable as he has achieved the right tone of sentimentality throughout the film’s running time.
However, it is not just the actors that should receive credit. The cinematography of the Hawaiian Islands is simply breathtaking and the audience is given many shots of a liveable paradise. All of this is set against a large selection of Hawaiian songs and a very simple acoustic guitar score that blends in perfectly with the visuals on screen.
With awards season approaching fast, it is little wonder that The Descendents has hopes of making a powerful impact. With flawless acting, direction, dialogue and a believable story that is set against some of the most picturesque cinematography and all backed by an unobtrusive and period setting score, The Descendents is a simple story idea that is perfectly executed, and will have audience members reaching for tissues to dry tears of both laughter and sadness in equal measure.