Movie Review: The Descendants

“The Descendents” on IMDB

Drama,  115 Minutes, 2011

This is one of those dramatic comedies where the name of the movie is based upon the least interesting thread of the plot.  In this case the King family has owned a huge, never-developed, pristine chunk of Kauai worth hundreds of millions for over 150 years.  The trust on the land will be running out in a few years and the family has decided to cash in.

The actual story, though, is more down-to-earth and meaningful.  Matt King’s (George Clooney [IMDB]) wife has had a boating accident and is in a coma.  She’s going to die and he’s been asked to arrange for those that want to say goodbye.  In doing so he has to deal with his daughters.  The younger one, Scottie, is every kind of movie precocious and the older one, Alex, is all kinds of mad at the world.  Alex is, however, especially angry at her mother and when pressed reveals the she had cheated on her father.  So dad packs up the kids and hops over to another island to confront the man his comatose, dying wife was cheating on him with.

The movie is slow.  Not painfully so but noticeably so.  Clooney’s delivery is excellent but subdued.  Emotions often run high but never seem to truly crescendo.  The supporting cast is excellent with Robert Forster [IMDB] in an especially memorable role as Clooney’s father-in-law who blames him for the accident.  It’s also always nice to see Judy Greer [IMDB] (who should be in everything).  There are some funny moments but many of them are manufactured through the otherwise meaningless addition of a stoner friend of Alex who oddly attaches himself to the family.  Because of this a lot of the humor rings a little false.

The drama is more important and it’s much more honest.  The multiple conflicts working on Clooney are interesting and (with the minor exception of the whole multi-millionaire land-baron thing) deeply relatable.  The situation is terrible and awkward and strange but the movie carries you through it softly and meaningfully.  It’s a good movie.  Very safe and lacking any real extremes, but a good movie nonetheless.

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