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From Alexander Payne; the creator of the Oscar-winning SIDEWAYS; set in Hawaii; THE DESCENDANTS is a sometimes humorous; sometimes tragic journey for Matt King (George Clooney) an indifferent husband and father of two girls; who is forced to re-examine his past and embrace his future when his wife suffers a boating accident off of Waikiki. The event leads to a rapprochement with his young daughters while Matt wrestles with a decision to sell the familys land handed down from Hawaiian royalty and missionaries.
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
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Top customer reviews
Clooney narrates and is a great narrator. The characters are believable and authentic. Nothing felt overdone. Shailene Woodley plays the angry teenage daughter and she is outstanding. It also had nice closure for the ending without being sappy.
Truthfully, I can't put my finger on why I wouldn't give this a 5. It is a good movie that was well done. There were many scenes that I would call great. When Clooney's character confronts his wife's lover he asks him if he loved her. The scoundrel pauses before answering (b/c clearly the truth was "no") and you can see the pain on Clooney's face. Even in her betrayal, he didn't want her to be used like that. Or maybe he felt even more worthless that his wife was so desperate for affection that she couldn't see the obvious. Either way, it was a surprising question for him to ask and his reaction to the response was one of many things that fleshed out his character.
Why no 5 star??? I guess overall it just didn't blow me away. I'd still recommend it, though.