Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Descendants

Movie Name: The Descendants
Year of Release: 2011
Director: Alexander Payne
Stars: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Robert Forster, Beau Bridges, Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer, Michael Ontkean, Matt Corboy, Mary Birdsong, Rob Huebel
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Alexander Payne's new film is the adaptation of the book "The Descendants" by Kaui Hart Hemmings. The story follows the life of Matt King, a well established lawyer in Hawaii, whose wife suffers a fatal boating accident. Following the accident, Matt has to learn to deal with his young daughters, and discovers his wife had been unfaithful to him. Matt also has a large real estate deal going on that consumes his time and focus.
Alexander Payne is an interesting director whose previous film, "Sideways" had a great critical reception. "The Descendants" continues to explore and expand his universe, with characters who always seem trampled by a reality that is overbearing towards them. These characters somehow always find a way to cope and overcome their discouraging obstacles. That occurred in "About Schmidt" and also "Election". His heroes are every day men, trying to adapt to realities that have changed without them accompanying that change. The film features great performances from George Clooney and Shailene Woodley. Clooney in particular imbues his character with a mix of sadness, surprise and pain that makes his Matt King all the more human and reachable. This is a film that smartly encompasses a theme as dark as death and opposes it with the luxurious joy and life that seems to be all around in Hawaii. A good film worth watching.