The Descendants


A land baron tries to re-connect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a boating accident.

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The streak continues! The illustrious George Clooney has been nominated for best actor at the Academy Awards every other year since his first Oscar win in 2006 for his work in Syriana. He was nominated for his films Michael Clayton in 2008, and Up in the Airin 2010. It’s easy to take for granted the times we live in, with people like Clooney, one of the best actors film has seen, to be making movies like this every other year. He’s got a strong chance of winning again this year if Jean Dujardin and The Artist don’t sweep the awards, which just might happen.

Based on the book by Kaui Hart Hemmings, Matt King [Clooney], lives in Hawaii, known to us main-landers as “paradise”. But his life is anything but paradise now. 23 days ago, his wife Elizabeth [Shailene Woodley] was in a boating accident and is now in a coma. His younger daughter Scottie [Amara Miller] is your typical thirteen year old girl, and Matt’s older daughter Alexandra is away at school in the continental US, doing drugs and drinking. Matt is in the midst of the biggest decision of his life as he is the sole heir to a large sum of land in Hawaii that he is trying to sell, and then the doctor hits him with the news that Elizabeth is not going to wake up.

We haven’t seen writer/director Alexander Payne write or direct anything in 7 years. His movies Sideways [2004] with Paul Giamatti, which won him an Oscar for best adapted screenplay and also producing several other nominations, About Schmidt [2002] with Jack Nicholson, and Election [1999] with Matthew Broderick, have all produced strong leading male performance, with Nicholson even being nominated for best actor Oscar in 2003. Payne doesn’t much stray from his general storylines of normal people with their own quirks and strangeness that encounter some sort of dramatic event or events, but it’s clear that he does it well. About Schmidt is the only film that hasn’t been nominated for best screenplay.

This year is Payne’s best chance yet to get his leading actor an Oscar, with George Clooney giving a marvelous performance. Suffering from grief of this magnitude can have many stages, most of which we get to see from Clooney. The transitions from comedic to dramatic to comically dramatic and dramatically comic are believable and allow the viewer to connect with the characters and their situations, a rare and hard to accomplish trait for a movie, and it is done with a joint effort from Payne, Clooney, and newcomer Shailene Woodley who also does a great job. The Payne/Clooney combination, together with the story, make you care about what is going to happen in the film, as there are problems and decisions that are specifically rare but on a general note relatable.

My Rating

 3.5/4 – The veteran combination of writer/director Alexander Payne and George Clooney bring some of their best work to the table to bring us a story both dramatically comic and comically dramatic, a story that we can feel for, but most of all a story about love and family.

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