The Descendants (Alexander Payne, 2011)
Some people say this is boring. I don’t think so. I feel sorry for them who can’t enjoy another high quality film from Alexander Payne. He hasn’t directed any professional film since his outstanding Sideways in 2004. Now he comes back with a new drama film, The Descendants. If Sideways is a drama comedy genre, this is almost pure drama. Although this has a serious story and dialogue, you still can laugh or at least smile with some moments which are awkward, funny, serious, or even sad. I love how Payne and co-write Nat Faxon write the screenplay and execute it. Their works really work on me. George Clooney is remarkable. I don’t know who else can play as Matt King except George Clooney.
Based on a novel written by Kaui Hart Hemmings which sets in one of the world’s paradise, Hawaii, it tells about Matt King, a workaholic man grieving for his wife, Elizabeth King (Patricia Hastie), who lies in a coma with life support machine after a boating accident. Now, he tries to re-connect with his daughters, Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and Scottie (Amara Miller).
He seldom meets them since he is busy with his business. He realizes that three lovely women in his life are now in trouble. He wonders why they three wanna destruct their own life. Elizabeth with her speed boat; Alexandra, the older daughter who lives in a boarding school, with drugs and old boyfriend; and Scottie, with Elizabeth’s gone, what kind of a chance will she have with him?
From Alexandra, Matt must deal the fact that his wife has an affair with another guy. I like this moment. Matt doesn’t know what kind of feeling he must show to his wife. Then, Matt has a plan to take his daughters on a trip from Oahu to Kauai to confront the young real estate broker, who was having an affair with Elizabeth before her misfortune.
Meanwhile, Matt has another issue to solve. He has a responsibility to take care a land which has been a part of his big family for a long time. He and his seven cousins must decide what to do, to keep the land or sell it. If they sell it, they all will become a very rich person. But the sale of the land soon or later will transform the originality of the land history and culture. People of Hawaii will dislike that.
That is some synopsis of the film that I can tell you. If you like a great drama genre, it’s worth watching. Maybe this isn’t kind of fun family film, but this isn’t hard thinker film either. It’s something between.
Collaboration between Clooney and Payne is the power of the film. Clooney’s performance is terrific. I can’t describe any longer about it. His expression can capture any moments well and effectively. Like what I said, not many actors can do that as Clooney did. I preferred him as a best leading actor to Jean Ducardin in 84th Academy Award. The other supporting casts are just fine.
The script is another power. Yup, it deserves an Oscar as best adapting screenplay. It’s second time for Alexander Payne in winning the same category (after Sideways). I hope I will not wait for 7 years again to enjoy his next film that has guarantee to be wonderfully written.
Matt King: “I don’t want my daughters growing up entitled and spoiled. And I agree with my father – you give your children enough money to do something but not enough to do nothing.”
Matt King: [voice-over] Don’t be fooled by appearances. In Hawaii, some of the most powerful people look like bums and stuntmen.
Matt King: [to Elizabeth] Goodbye, Elizabeth. Goodbye, my love, my friend, my pain, my joy. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.