Release date: May 21st, click 2012
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 115 minutes
Director: Alexander Payne
Writers: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Cast: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Patricia Hastie, Matthew Lillard
Every so often a film can come along with a story that gets under your skin in such a way it makes you sit up and take notice of your own life. The bills you worry about not paying, that meeting you didn’t attend, the holiday you’re saving up for and that job offer maybe you now regret taking…
Yes, those are all important in their own way and do deserve a certain amount of time to maul over in your mind. But there comes a point when you just need to move on because they’re not exactly all there is to life. And if they are, maybe that’s the problem.
The Descendants is a film written and directed by Alexander Payne that’s based on a book of the same name by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Its story is set in Honolulu, Hawaii where Matt King (George Clooney) is a successful lawyer who’s been neglecting his familial duties for some time.
When his wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) is seriously injured in a boating accident it forces him to get back to what really matters in life.
As he cares for her and tries to reconnect with his daughters, teenager Alex (Shailene Woodley) and younger Scottie (Amara Miller), eventually it will affect his decision on whether or not to sell 25,000 acres of pristine land on the island of Kaua’I that’s been in his family for generations and which he’s the sole trustee for.
With mounting pressure from his cousins who want him to sell so they can divide the money between them, Matt becomes torn between what he should do and what he wants to do. What complicates matters even more is the discovery that the sick wife he’s been caring for, and previously neglecting, was having an affair.
As the Kings pull together and try to overcome all the things that pulled them apart before what unfolds in The Descendants is a portrait of a family that feels so honest and true to the times we’re living in. George Clooney gives an incredible performance as a man who’s suddenly juggling being a businessman with fatherhood and a rejected husband. The scenes where takes out his anger and frustrations at his comatose wife cut deep in the heart like a knife. He’s compelling to watch and the script is laced with moments that allow him to shine brilliantly.
There are quite a few funny moments too, such as when we see Matt, Scottie, Alex and her boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause) stalking Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard), the alleged home-wrecker.
The superb cinematography and soundtrack cannot go unmentioned either. Choosing to set such a story in Hawaii has many advantages and for us as the audience we’re treated to magnificent views and beautiful sounds of this incredible island. The Descendants is likely to increase tourism in the places featured in it and the irony there is that protecting it from being developed into busy roads, apartment complexes and golf courses is exactly what some of the islanders, including Matt, are hesitant to see happen.
With its emphasis on our hard economic times as well as a frank and honest look at modern family life The Descendants surprised and entertained on a level that I really wasn’t expecting. In the midst of all it’s nominations and awards it’s easy to forget why important films like these get noticed and talked about. It’s certainly got a great cast and there isn’t anyone member who drops the ball at any time and this also goes for the director, cinematographer and editor too. Holding it all together though is a story that will resonate with us for quite some time to come.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .