This wonderful movie is quintessential proof that George Clooney is not just a pretty face. As “Matt King” he portrays a man whose life has been vivisected by tragedy; an absentee father, his wife Elizabeth, lies in a coma; he is confronted and confounded by his seventeen and ten- year- old daughters; they are aliens and he is clueless as how to relate to them. The power and resiliency of “The Descendants” revolves around how father and daughters test the waters and learn to swim toward a meaningful, understanding, respectful trinity. Breathtaking cinematography enhances the god- given glory of Hawaii.
The acting by every character is fine, polished, royally realistic. Shailene Woodley is “Alex”, a seventeen- year -old with unresolved issues who becomes the catalyst, and forces Matt to seek answers to problems he was unaware of; this brilliant performance awakens and is reminiscent of the “Alex” in all of us. Amara Miller is ten- year -old “Scottie”, a perfect concoction of naivety, humor, and innocence; searching for herself, emulating her sister. She believes unequivocally that her mother will recover, and normalcy will prevail.
Alex’s friend “Sid”( incredible performance by Nick Krause) is Shakespearean in adding comic relief; like “Falstaff “his silliness masks keen insight and wisdom; he handles the Kings with levity and eventually chisels a niche for himself.
“The Descendants” written by Kaui Hart Hemming in 2007 and directed by Alexander Payne (“Sideways”) is one the best films of the year; not a false chord is struck, the characters complement each other; in every scene you focus on the whole, not the parts, resulting in stunning observations; this family is treading in virgin, horrific circumstances, struggling for meaning.
But the core of the film, and its comprehensive universality revolves around events everyone can relate to; galloping through our veins is the blood of our ancestors, is there a statue of limitations on the debt of the descendents? Inevitability, and acceptance of loss; human frailty, absence of perfection, resonate in all souls; forgiveness, above all forgiveness.
At the epicenter of this magnificent film is the performance of George Clooney as Matt King. In previous roles he has appeared analytically detached; observing his character, never wholly involved. From the first scene Mr. Clooney is absent; replaced by the befuddled, overwhelmed, desperate Matt, navigating challenges beyond reason; his pain and disillusionment never sink to bitterness or self-pity; he is a good man, facing obstacles, searching for answers. But his greatness lies in thinking of others, first and foremost, before himself.
FOUR &1/2 STARS!!!!