FILM REVIEW: The Descendants
- November 18, 2011 1:00 AM |
- By Eli Glasner
The Descendants is a movie about what happens to your life when you're not looking.
Directed by Sideways helmer Alexander Payne, The Descendants exists in the sweet spot between laughter and sadness. The circumstances couldn't be more serious. A mother is hurt by a boating accident. She lies comatose. Death is inevitable. The father, suddenly forced to deal with two daughters he barely knows, then learns his soon-to-be-departed wife was having an affair.
Sure the Kings have problems, but they're in an Hawaiian paradise. (Fox Searchlight)
Where's the comedy? Begin with the cast. The master of the knowing smirk George Clooney as Matt King, the father who describes himself as "the understudy." Add in one-to-watch actress Shailene Woodley as Matt's teenage daughter, still seething at her mother even as she lies rigid on the hospital bed. Toss in newcomer Nick Krause as her pal Sid, a doofus with hidden depths. Have Matt take the whole gang on a impromptu road trip to confront his wife's lover. Finally just to accent the absurd, set the whole story in a rainbow-coloured paradise. Have Matt King be the trustee for long line of Hawaiian landowners, forced to sell off a little bit of heaven, while putting his cheating wife to rest.
Now you start to get a sense what makes The Descendants different from your average comedy, or drama for that matter. The film is filled with moments when it feels wrong to laugh. But that uncomfortable tension is Alexander Payne's signature.
Judy Greer says so much with her few scenes as the other woman. And yes, not even flip flops and Hawaiian shirts can dull Clooney's charms. The Descendents is a film filled with First World problems. Beautiful people in a beautiful place, with beautiful dilemmas. On the surface, it seems like a fantasy but it's the very human way they relate to each other that brings it down to earth.
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