Film Review: THE DESCENDANTS

Directed and Written by Alexander Payne (with Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.
Based on a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Beau Bridges, Robert Forster, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard

This is not a comedy. That’s the first thing to say here because the stream of people filing out of the theater was disappointed it was not another SIDEWAYS. Although truthfully, I remember that film as well as ABOUT SCHMIDT and CITIZEN RUTH as being pretty dark films.

PLOT: Matt King’s (Clooney) wife is dying after a boating mishap. An absentee father, he is now forced to care for his rambunctious daughters (Woodley and Miller), and make two big decisions. Whether to allow his wife to die and whether to sell or hold onto his family’s huge land holdings. A third decision about his wife’s lover crops up along the way. But this is a movie about the one percent who masquerade as middle class because Matt has decided they will live on his salary as an attorney.

The strengths of this film are considerable: impeccable acting, a different and lush setting, great sets that convey a sense of a different culture here—one where you might hop in a plane and fly to another island at a moment’s notice, a different wardrobe, and a pretty decent script. The characters are almost totally thorny and distinct individuals despite their Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops.

However, I couldn’t help but think this was a Lifetime Movie with better productions values and cast. Matt never quite gains our sympathy because he is so rich and was obviously a lousy father and husband. We know by the end of the film, they will all survive this and I wonder if a better movie might have left that open.. However, I still recommend it.

Patti
Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at http://www.pattinase.blogspot.com/ She hopes you’ll join in