the Descendants

25 Apr

Synopsis: From Alexander Payne, the creator of the Oscar-winning Sideways, set in Hawaii, The Descendants is a sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic journey for Matt King (George Clooney) an indifferent husband and father of two girls, who is forced to re-examine his past and embrace his future when his wife suffers a boating accident off of Waikiki. The event leads to a rapprochement with his young daughters while Matt wrestles with a decision to sell the family’s land handed down from Hawaiian royalty and missionaries. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Clooney as best actor and was up for best picture as well.

Review: The film is a juxtapose of lightness and drama centered around a moving performance by George Clooney as Matt King.  The story takes place in Hawaii as King goes on a journey to discover himself, his worth as a husband, and “the back up parent” of two daughters after his wife has a tragic boating accident and lies in a coma in the hospital.  His ten year old daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) gets into trouble because she is acting out her anger over her mother by throwing chairs into their swimming pool, using foul language and berating classmates. King’s other daughter Alex (Shailene Woodley) is a rebellious typical teenage young lady who lives on another island in a boarding school. King learns his wife is going to die and he has to tell his daughters, his wife’s friends and relatives. When he goes to bring home Alex to talk to her about mother’s condition Alex look’s at her father and realizes that he hasn’t a clue to her behavior.  She tells him that mom has been cheating on him for months and if he didn’t spend so much time at work and neglecting his family perhaps this never would have happened. This is when the journey, catharsis and healing really begin.

When King finds out the name of his wife’s lover from the husband of a couple his wife was friend’s with, Alex and her father bond over trying to find the guy. King just wants to see him and find closure, his intelligence and restraint rule over his inner jealousy and contempt. Clooney’s portrayal navigates through the emotions with intensity and humor when he finally confronts the guy.  Shailene Woodley‘s Alex, realistically portrays the young teen who has to take on an adult role but emotionally isn’t near up to the task, despite her rude bravado. Nick Krause  plays Alex’s goofy tag-along pal Sid, who has a gift for saying the wrong thing, especially in front of Alex’s grumpy grandpa (Robert Forster) who belts him in the eye for being stupid.  Also notable are Beau Bridges, as a laid-back, long haired cousin who understands the business end of selling the family property, and Judy Greer brings a subtle sub-surface hurt to the wife of the “other man” in King’s wife’s life.

The film strength lies in the journey and you cry and laugh over King reuniting his family under such extraordinary but real circumstances. He goes from being out of loop about his wife’s private life to bringing closure, warmth and understanding to his two daughters. The film is available on DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix, Redbox and On Demand.


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