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Despite rave reviews, The Descendants has limited appeal

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: ,
 
Starring: , ,
 
Directed By:
 
Studio:
 
MPAA Rating:
 
Release Date: December 9, 2011
 
Length: 115 minutes
 
Directing
8.0


 
Plot
7.0


 
Acting
8.0


 
Cinematography
9.0


 
Total Score
8.0
8/ 10


 

Whoa


The setting acts as a (beautiful) character and Clooney does a typically solid job as the introverted Matt King.

No


The movie just didn’t live up to the hype.


Bottom Line

All the actors are good, the backdrop beautiful, but ultimately, we didn’t find the slow-developing story and soap opera-like drama at the film’s center to be riveting.

0
Posted December 27, 2011 by

 
Full Review
 
 

We had high hopes for The Descendants, the first movie that Alexander Payne (Election, About Schmidt) has directed since 2004’s Sideways. Despite reading across-the-board positive reviews that listed the movie as one of the year’s best, we found the film to be a rather flat portrayal of a man who struggles to cope with his wife’s imminent death and discovers a secret that makes a difficult situation even more difficult. The movie just didn’t live up to the hype.

George Clooney portrays the film’s central character, Matt King, a lawyer who owns a huge chunk of land in his native Honolulu. When his wife Elizabeth ends up in a coma after a boating accident, he realizes he has to come to terms with a number of issues. First, he will have to raise his daughters Scottie (Amara Miller) and Alex (Shailene Woodley) himself, which is no easy task considering he spends most of his time working (the land he owns with his cousins is part of trust that must be dissolved). Second, after discovering that his wife was having an affair, he sets out to find out the competition.

Turns out, she was seeing Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard), a local real estate agent who stands to benefit immensely if Matt and his cousins sell their property to one particular developer. With his daughters in tow, Matt heads off to the unspoiled island of Kaua’i to find Speer, who’s vacationing there with his wife and kids. Matt confronts Brian, telling him that if he wants to see Elizabeth while she’s still alive, he better get to the hospital in a hurry before she’s taken off life support. It’s an awkward scene that Clooney portrays with just the right mixture of anger, grief and sorrow.

Matt must also inform all of Elizabeth’s friends and relatives (including her surly dad, who’s aptly portrayed by the acerbic Robert Forster), a task he finds increasingly difficult as he discovers more about his wife’s affair. Payne makes expert use of the film’s setting, turning the film into a road movie of sorts as the family travels from island to island and visits the more conventional, suburban Hawaiian neighborhoods often not seen in commercial films (we loved the cameo by super surfer Laird Hamilton, who plays a burnout who was driving the speedboat when Elizabeth crashed). And the soundtrack of Hawaiian music adds a nice touch, too.

While Clooney does a typically solid job as the introverted Matt King, it’s not really the first time he’s played a character that has a storm going on underneath his calm demeanor. All the actors are good, the backdrop beautiful, but ultimately, we didn’t find the slow-developing story and soap opera-like drama at the film’s center to be riveting and there wasn’t as much humor in the pathos as there was in Sideways or About Schmidt, which is perhaps why, despite the glowing reviews, Fox Searchlight hasn’t expanded the film’s distribution (it’s still only out in limited release).


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