NewsBlaze search box Daily News header

The Descendants Review: George Clooney Does Bad Dad With Humbling Grace

By     get stories by email

Anyone who has confronted major grief in the passing of a loved one on this planet, pretty much knows that Hollywood in most cases just doesn't get it, and certainly in no way prepares you for the inevitable of what is to come. And what a strangely comforting surprise it is to encounter Alexander Payne's The Descendants, which reveals warts and all, just how unimaginably awkward, turbulent and even surreal grieving can be.

Adapted from author Kaui Hart's novel by the never less than playfully unpredictable Payne (Election, About Schmidt, Sideways), The Descendants stars George Clooney as Hawaiian workaholic lawyer Matt King. He's the typical absentee dad who barely knows his two glum teen daughters Alexandra and Scottie (Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller), leaving all the rearing in the hands of his equally neglected spouse, Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie). Who in turn has taken to compensating for her loneliness with excess booze and danger junkie pastimes.

But when Elizabeth is injured in a water-skiing accident off the coast of Waikiki and ends up in a terminal coma, Matt finds himself burdened with a lot more than the loss of his wife. For starters, he's suddenly saddled with the unfamiliar and scary role of father. When all along, he has comfortably settled into the far less stressful routine of 'backup parent and understudy.'

Likewise taunting Matt from the sidelines, are annoying relatives pestering him to sell off their family land to developers offering a hefty amount of cash they look forward to dividing among themselves. And that is actually a vast tract of earth which Matt questions even belongs to them as descendants of the original invaders of Hawaii, or to the native people themselves.

Then there are all manner of shocking family secrets that surface, surrounding his wife's rather shady double life. Or was it? Since Elizabeth has no choice at the moment, and in fact forever, to shed light on assorted accusations or tell her side of the story, the only alternative for Matt as well as others in this increasingly bizarre when not bitter farce, is to do some frantic investigating of his own around the island. And along with other unfortunates sucked into this tragic scenario, take time out to either reminisce out loud at the bedside of the mute, unconscious Elizabeth, or take turns scolding her.

The Descendants is a richly rewarding, originally conceived, at times even oddly humorous and exquisite, sensitively crafted film. And in which Clooney continues to showcase his creative passion to move beyond movie star vehicles, and venture into risky roles in which his talents shine.

Fox Searchlight Pictures
Rated R
4 stars

Prairie Miller is a NY multimedia journalist online, in print and on radio, and on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network's Arts Express. Read more reviews by Prairie Miller. Contact her through NewsBlaze.

  Please click this get stories by email button to be notified about future stories, and please leave a comment below.

  Please leave a comment here     If it does not display within 10 seconds, please refresh the page

Related Movie Reviews News

Prairie Miller has a conversation with the star of a new Off-Broadway play, Sandra Lee, herself a victim of rape in the military as a soldier in Iraq.
Three Chinese boys undergo 90 days of rehab to cure their addiction for computer games and the Internet rather that prevents them connecting with others.
Ryan Reynolds sees futuristic identity theft in sci-fi thriller Self/Less. He freaks out when involuntarily biologically engineered to share the same body with Ben Kingsley
Channing Tatum returns in the title role, but legendary director, Steven Soderbergh and several actors critical to the success of the original are missing.
Stephen Boss parlayed television success into a film career, appearing in Hairspray, Blades of Glory, Stomp the Yard 2 and, most notably, several installments of the Step Up franchise.
Top Ten DVD List for June 30, 2015, including Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, While We're Young, and The Decline of Western Civilization.

 

NewsBlaze Writers Of The Month


Popular Stories This Month

newsletter logo

NewsBlaze
Copyright © 2004-2014 NewsBlaze Pty. Ltd.
Use of this website is subject to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy  | DMCA Notice               Press Room   |    Visit NewsBlaze Mobile Site