A moneyed real estate lawyer (George Clooney), who is about to sell a huge plot of land in Hawaii, deals with the imminent death of his wife even as he learns to be friends with his 17- and 10-year old daughters. What happens when he finds out that his dying wife, who is in coma, had had an extra-marital affair? Read the review of The Descendants for more.
Business rating: 2.5 / 5 stars (Two-and-a-half stars)
Star cast: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Patricia Hastie.
What’s Good: The engaging script; the emotions and comedy in the drama; the performances; the beautiful locations of Hawaii; the eye-filling cinematography.
What’s Bad: A few portions when the drama dips.
Verdict: The Descendants is an entertaining film. It should do above-average business in India.
Loo break: None.
Watch or Not?: Definitely watch it for the performances and the drama.
Ad Hominem Enterprises and Fox Star Studios’ The Descendants is a family drama about a husband who is dealing with the imminent death of his wife.
Matt King (George Clooney) is a real estate lawyer who stays in Hawaii; he is also the sole trustee of a huge plot of land handed down the generations in his family. Matt and his cousins are in the process of selecting an appropriate bid for selling the land for its ultimate redevelopment. The sale is expected to fetch them loads of money.
Matt’s wife, Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie), is in the hospital in a comatose state after she met with an accident while power-boating. Matt, who has more or less been a non-existent father to his two daughters so far, is at his wits’ end dealing with them. His petulant 10-year-old daughter, Scottie (Amara Miller), expresses her frustration by making a photo-album of her sick mom at the hospital. At the same time, his elder daughter, Alexandra (Shailene Woodley), who has had a drug problem in the past, is acting difficult and refusing to come back home from her residential school.
Elizabeth is dying, doctors tell Matt. And according to her will, she has to be taken off life support very soon. So when Matt faces the arduous task of breaking the news to his daughters, relatives and close friends, he calls an indifferent Alexandra to help him. He asks Alexandra to bury the hatchet with her sick mother, with whom she had fought a few months before the accident. It is then that the daughter tells Matt that she had had a fight with her mother because she had learnt that the mother was having an extra-marital affair.
How Matt breaks the news of his dying wife to others and comes to terms with the shocking fact about his wife’s affair, forms the rest of the drama. Does Matt find the man with whom Elizabeth had had the affair? What happens when Elizabeth is finally taken off life support? What about the sale of the trust land?
The Descendants Review: Script Analysis
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s screenplay, based on Kaui Hart Hemmings’ novel of the same name, is very engaging and entertaining. Although the film is primarily based on a depressing premise of someone’s imminent death, the writers are able to being out the beauty of emotions in the relationships – especially that between Matt and Elizabeth – through some very impactful scenes and dialogues. The writers are, of course, supported by a marvellous cast which wows the viewer in every scene.
The element of humour is brought in through the eccentric character of Sid (Nick Krause), Alexandra’s friend, who accompanies the family everywhere, often to disastrous results! Several scenes are memorable, including the one where Matt starts to run when he first learns of his wife’s infidelity; when he takes the children on a vacation and confronts his nemesis; when the father and the kids travel to their plot of land which is about to be sold etc. Several scenes will bring tears to the audience’s eyes.
Where the film probably lacks is in a few scenes which seem forced into the narrative to evoke laughter or scenes that are too verbose. It is then that the drama dips a little and the audience’s attention wavers. But that’s not much of a problem.
The Descendants Review: Star Performances
George Clooney is superb as Matt. He looks his part, his acting is as good as always and he excels in the emotional scenes. His character is also the narrator of the story, another part where Clooney’s voiceover is great. Shailene Woodley delivers a fine performance as Alexandra. Young Amara Miller looks cute. She does a fair job. Patricia Hastie, who is comatose all through the film except in the opening shot, has to remain still and behave like a dead duck. Nick Krause makes the audience laugh with his strange language and awkward behavior. Robert Forster (as Elizabeth’s father), Barbara L. Southern (as Elizabeth’s mother), Beau Bridges (as Matt’s cousin, Hugh), Milt Kogan (as Dr. Johnston), Mary Birdsong, Rob Huebel, Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer and others support well.
The Descendants Review: Direction & Technical Aspects
Alexander Payne’s direction shows his mastery over the story-telling medium. He makes the drama engaging and emotionally rich, even soulful at times. The background score is fantastic. Phedon Papamichael’s cinematography is eye-pleasing; his camera captures the breathtaking beauty of Hawaii and its beaches wonderfully. Editing, by Kevin Tent, is good.
The Descendants Review: The Last Word
On the whole, The Descendants is a very good fare. The publicity accrued to it due to the Oscar nominations will help it do above-average business at multiplexes in Indian cities.
The Descendants released in India on January 26, 2012.