George Clooney will likely be crowned for his performance here. Despite not belonging to the diehard Clooney Fan Club, he deserves recognition. In the past, he’s struck me as beautiful but with little range. In The Descendants, he finds emotional range beyond what he gave in Up in the Air (which was good). His conflicts, his frustrations and his I’ve-no-clue-what-the-hell-to-do moments show us the black, the white and the greys.
Matt King (George Clooney) is a thrifty lawyer entrusted with pristine Hawaiian land that’s been in his family for decades and will soon be sold for development. His wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) is on life support following a boating accident. Having been disconnected with the family (presumably working), he has little relationship with his two troubled daughters. Younger Scottie (Amara Miller) is a bully; Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) at boarding school is getting drunk and hitting golf balls (allegedly, she’s more troubled in the book).
The Descendants was adapted from the Kaui Hart Hemmings novel. I have it on good word that the movie was thinned way down. This is a story about a daughter and a father finding each other in the fallout of a failed marriage and the hard truths they uncover. The trust backstory isn’t as interesting as the dynamics between Matt and Alexandra and their sleuthing. (The magnificent Woodley steals the screen). It’s tragic. It’s funny. It’s also a wee predictable with a good dose of feel good. Scottie and Alexandra’s friend Sid (Nick Krause) are extraneous characters who contribute little to moving along the plot.
Co-writer/Director: Alexander Payne
Run time: 115 minutes