Homefront movie
7.25 out of 10
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie
8.75 out of 10
Disney's Frozen movie
10.0 out of 10
Delivery Man movie
6.75 out of 10
8.25 out of 10

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Descendants

Real Life In Paradise

Director: Alexander Payne
Writers: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Cast: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Beau Bridges, Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer, Robert Forster

SYNOPSIS: After his wife goes into a coma, Matt King and his daughters have the face the harsh reality of an ongoing affair she was having prior to her accident, as well as dealing with the pressures of deciding how to sell off thousands of acres of inherited Hawaiian land that was put into a family trust.

REVIEW: Alexander Payne, director of Election and Sideways, comes back to the big screen after taking a break in favor of short films, video shorts and premium cable television. Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, Alexander Payne teams up with television movie Adopted writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash to bring us a heart breaking look at the dilemma a man faces when his life is turned upside down by tragedy.

Matt King (George Clooney, The Ides of March), while on a business trip to one of the other Hawaiian island, finds off that his wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) has been in a boating accident and is currently lying in a coma in a hospital bed. Returning home to care for her, Matt is forced to face the chore of handling his daughters Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and Scottie (Amara Miller) alone. As his wife's condition worsens, Matt finds out from Alex that she witnessed her mother with another man. Now he must balance his curiosity about what his wife saw in this other man with how to sell off a huge inherited parcel of pristine Hawaiian shoreline that had been put into a family trust by his missionary ancestor who married one of the last Hawaiian princesses. As one of the state's largest landowners with the power of attorney concerning the trust, Matt must contend with many of his cousins looking to become financially secure with the land sale.

George Clooney has been a prolific and superb actor with a career spanning over 30 years in television and film. From Up In The Air to The Ides of March to Michael Clayton, Clooney's decisions in projects sets the standard for fine film. The Descendants is no different. Clooney sheds his uber-charming and confident exterior to portray a man coming to terms with his failures and frailities as a absentee husband and an 'alternate' father. Shailene Woodley's angry teenage daughter Alexandra is reminiscent of a young Natalie Portman, angst-ridden with no proper outlet for her frustrations. Everyone deals with their grief in their own way. Elizabeth's father Scott (Robert Forster, Lucky Number Slevin) lashes out at Matt, the cousins worry about their impending financial windfalls with the land sale, and Alexander brings along her guy pal Sid (Nick Krause, How To Eat Fried Worms) who has a gnarly Hawaiian surfer attitude and a possible zen outlook on the situation.

The Descendants is a real look at the uncertainties faced when confronted by the mortality of life, ours or the ones we hold dear. Matt King narrates at the open of the film that most mainlanders think that people who reside on the Hawaiian islands must live an idyllic existence in this tropical paradise. But as with any locale, tragedy can come calling at any time. Filled with Alexander Payne's About Schmidt pacing and sensibility, The Descendants combines a picturesque setting with Hawaiian shirts, classic island music and an all too somber, and sometimes funny, theme.

Sometimes slow but always engrossing, The Descendants is a fine film and will definitely be a buzz come the end of the Oscar season (either for George Clooney for a Best Actor nod or for Best Adapted Screenplay). If you have lost a loved one or someone close, you will be especially moved by this film. For everyone else, a few smiles will raise the corners of your mouth and at least a single tear will probably fall, regardless of the sandy beaches and crystal blue surf.

WORTH: Matinee or Rental

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