Film: The Descendants (2011)

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Film:

The Descendants

Director: Alexander Payne
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Distributor: Fox Searchlight

When his wife is killed in a Waikiki boating accident, distant father Matt King (George Clooney) begins an iffy journey to repair his fractured relationship with his two daughters. But he's also trying to decide whether to let go of some valuable family real estate. Judy Greer, Beau Bridges and Matthew Lillard co-star in this tragic-comic tale of legacy and unexpected loss based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings.

Reviews

Amazon.com

Only Oscar-winning writer-director Alexander Payne (Sideways) would think to cast the famously handsome George Clooney as a disheveled dad in his outstanding adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings’s tragicomic novel. Clooney dials down the glamour to play Matt King, a Hawaii real-estate attorney with a propensity for unflattering shirts and ill-fitting trousers. When Matt’s wife, Elizabeth, ends up in a coma after a water-skiing accident, Matt must learn to balance the parenting of his resentful daughters, Scottie (Amara Miller) and Alexandra (Shailene Woodley, The Secret Life of the American Teenager), with the sale of a pristine plot of Kauai land that stands to make the King cousins, including scruffy Hugh (Beau Bridges), a fortune. As Elizabeth’s condition worsens, Matt contacts friends and relatives, like her fiercely protective father (Robert Forster), so that they’ll have the chance to say goodbye. In the process, he finds out she was having an affair with realtor Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard, effectively cast against type), so he and the girls, including Alex’s hilariously mellow friend, Sid (Nick Krause), go on an island-hopping trip, ostensibly to add Brian to the mix, but Matt really wants to find out what his wife saw in the guy. His journey from naiveté to knowledge brings out Clooney’s soulful side, creating a believably flawed, deeply sympathetic figure. If Payne leans too heavily on the slack-key soundtrack, his love for his characters, including Judy Greer as Matt’s female counterpart, results in his most emotionally satisfying movie to date. —Kathleen C. Fennessy

Related Works

Book:The Descendants: A Novel

The Descendants: A Novel

Kaui Hart Hemmings

A descendant of one of Hawaii’s largest landowners, Matthew King finds his luck has changed. His two daughters—Scottie, a feisty ten-year-old, and Alex, a teenage recovering drug addict—are out of control; his thrill-seeking, high-maintenance wife, Joanie, lies in a coma after a boat-racing accident and will soon be taken off life support. Suddenly the King family must come to terms with this tragedy—and with the shameful sense of freedom that comes with it.As Matt gathers Joanie’s friends and family to say their final goodbyes, a difficult situation is made worse by the discovery that one person hasn’t been told—the man with whom Joanie has been having an affair. Forced to examine what he owes not only to the living but also to the dead, Matt takes to the road with his daughters to find his wife’s lover on a memorable journey of painful revelations and unforeseen humour.

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