The Descendants is the latest George Clooney vehicle and it is produced and directed by Alexander Payne of Sideways and Election fame. Payne is a filmmaker who does not make easily enjoyable movies. The audience has to work for the messages of his movies to glean any basic entertainment payoff. The Descendants is in keeping with his other films in that it has garnered great critical acclaim but audiences will be left wondering what all the shouting is about.
In the film Clooney plays Matt King, the head of a dysfunctional family living in Hawaii. When the movie starts his wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) has been injured in a boating accident and is comatose. He is told she will not recover which sends him into a tailspin as he has two daughters. Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) is seventeen and attends a private school on the main island while ten year old Scottie (Amara Miller) lives at home. Matt has always been the backup parent and has not been very involved in the girls' lives.
The first thing Matt does is bring Alexandra home from school to help care for Scottie. When he breaks the news to her of her mother's impending death she retorts by telling him her mother has been cheating on him for quite some time. The rest of the movie deals with him tracking down his wife's lover.
The movie is basically a study of Matt's ineptness as a husband and father. If this qualifies as entertainment for you then you will be very pleased by the film. Clooney manages to make this ineptness an art. His performance is appropriate, but it is hardly award-worthy. He manages to bring the same degree of smirkiness to the role as he has displayed in many other films.
Clooney is an actor critics love but audiences don't. Rarely is any film of his a blockbuster. Instead most of his movies find the small audience of Clooney devotees attending and that is all. No matter how "the ones in the know" stress that this or that Clooney movie must be seen, audiences rarely embrace them.
Woodley is okay as Clooney's daughter but again the performance is nothing to rave about. She tosses off a few four letter words to show Alexandra's gutsiness but little she does provides any insight into her character. More enjoyable is Nick Krause as her tag-along boyfriend Sid.
The movie is rated R for profanity, sexual situations and mild violence.
The Descendants may appeal to you, but in my opinion, it probably won't. There is just too much repetition of plot, too little energy in the plot, and one dimensional characters who don't grow or learn. The movie is a study of the members of a dysfunctional family. They start off that way at the beginning of the movie and are still that way at the end.
I scored The Descendants a hereditary 5 out of 10.
Jackie K Cooper
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