CAST: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Beau Bridges, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, Robert Forster; DIRECTOR: Alexander Payne; SCREENPLAY: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash; PRODUCED BY: Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor; CINEMATOGRAPHY: Phedon Papamichae; EDITING: Kevin Tent; LOCATION: United States; RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3
Cinema Rating: For viewers 14 years old and above
The Descendants is set in Hawaii and follows the unpredictable journey of an American family at a crossroads. Matt King (George Clooney), a husband and father of two girls, must re-examine his past and navigate his future when his wife goes into coma due to a boating accident off Waikiki. He awkwardly attempts to repair his relationship with his daughters— perky 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller) and rebellious 17-year-old Alexandra (Shailene Woodley)—while wrestling with a decision to sell his family’s land handed down from Hawaiian royalty and missionaries. Matt and his King cousins own some of the last priceless virgin parcels of tropical beach in the islands.
When Alexandra drops the bombshell that her mother was cheating on her husband at the time of the accident, Matt has to take a whole new look at his life, not to mention his legacy, during a week of momentous decisions. With his girls in tow, he embarks on a haphazard search for his wife’s lover. Along the way, in encounters alternately funny, troublesome and transcendent, he realizes he’s finally on course toward rebuilding his life and family.
Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, The Descendants has a snappy screen play by its own director Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash. Others in the acting ensemble are Beau Bridges, Robert Forster, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, Nick Krause, Mary Birdsong, Rob Huebel and Patricia Hastie. Clooney’s award-winning Matt King is a flawed individual finding his way through a world of lunacy, bittersweet emotion and surprises; he is neither a hero nor anti-hero, not the man he would like to be. Rather, Matt King is a man grappling with some of the worst news, most difficult people, and most impossible decisions of his life.
Close family ties are among the values highlighted in this movie. The bond between the father and his daughters is also emphasized to show that while tragedy, a death in the family, and the discovery of a betrayal may lead to pain and bitterness, the same suffering may also strengthen the character of those left behind. In the last scene the characters do no talk but it is pregnant with symbols and body language no words can equal. A most satisfying film for families to watch.