** The Descendants (2011)
What the world positively doesn’t need is another review of The Descendants, so I’ll be brief. Director Alexander Payne adaptation of Kaui Hemmings’ 2007 novel will please the millions of George Clooney fans and leave everyone else wondering what all the fuss was about. To be fair, Clooney delivers a nice performance as the family patriarch Matt King, but he’s George Clooney and you just can’t shake the sense that you’re watching George Clooney play a sad sack named Matt King. The plot is divided into 3 threads. First – King’s wife has suffered a terrible boating accident and is in a coma, second – he’s on the cusp of becoming extremely wealthy from selling the last remaining parcel of his family’s historical Hawaiian land holdings, and third, with his wife failing in the hospital, he must bridge the gap that’s opened between he and his two daughters.
There’s a lot of crying, but not much in the way of emotional connection for the audience to attach themselves to. Several scenes work nicely on their own, but don’t congeal into much of a cohesive whole. Matthew Lillard, (Shaggy from the live action Scooby-Doo movies) is in it, so you know where that’s going – which is nowhere. Robert Forster is grating as King’s asshole father-in-law and doesn’t ring true. The daughters fare far better with Shailene Woodley, as the older daughter, the clear standout in the supporting cast.
The bulk of the film centres on King trying to reconcile his conflicted feelings of guilt, betrayal, regret and grief over having to say goodbye to his wife. You can’t fault Clooney’s performance because he hits all the right notes. Despite being showered with accolades, awards and critical acclaim, The Descendants is a bit of a fluff piece quite frankly. It isn’t a bad movie by any stretch, but it isn’t a great film either.
It is instead, almost exactly what you’d expect it be.