The Descendants

Film

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Posted: Thu Nov 10 2011

Alexander Payne has shown in the likes of ‘Election’ (1999) and ‘About Schmidt’ (2002) that he finds humour no barrier to seriousness, or vice versa. Payne’s view of life is affectionate, with a hint of barb and caricature, and he takes a special interest in men in crisis and the healing power of journeys, both of which came together winningly in his last film, ‘Sideways’ (2004). Payne is also at ease among America’s richer suburbs and the folk who live there, so it’s no surprise he should be drawn to Kaui Hart Hemmings’s novel ‘The Descendants’, the tale of a likeable Hawaiian lawyer born of old money who is trying to mend a fractured family and redefine his values. It’s a warm exercise in gentle observation, modest laughs and easy compassion, but it lacks the incision to make a major impact as drama or comedy. It’s too laidback to offend or excite. A middle-of-the-road road movie.

But within this framework ‘The Descendants’ offers numerous pleasures. George Clooney is Matt King, a wealthy Hawaiian with two young daughters and a wife (Patricia Hastie) in a coma after a speedboat accident. King narrates his own story: he and his wife had been drifting apart emotionally, and he had been losing sight of his kids too. Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) is 17 and misbehaving at boarding school before her father drags her home to deal with the fallout from her mother’s accident. Meanwhile, ten-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller) is a bundle of anger and insults who alternates between bullying and being bullied at school.

Other matters are pressing. The first is a long-term issue: King must decide on behalf of his family whether to sell a large piece of land to a developer or keep it unspoilt. The second is a bolt from the blue: King’s wife was having an affair before she slipped into the coma from which the doctors say she will never recover. Together, they serve to launch King and his daughters on a healing tour of Hawaii.

Whether you buy Clooney as a family man – an unusual role for him – will affect how much you’re willing to buy ‘The Descendants’. I’m not sure he is convincing as a father of girls, even one with a lot of work to do, although he’s best when adrift and lost for words, such as in a tender nighttime scene in which he confides in his older daughter’s brash friend, Sid (Nick Krause). Much has been made of how Clooney has shed his chiselled image for this film but, bar the odd dodgy T-shirt, I can’t see it. Where Clooney and his co-stars excel, though, are in the moments between the comic set-pieces and dramatic high points, when they’re just hanging out or, in a poignant final scene, settling down to watch ‘March of the Penguins’ on the sofa.

Payne is an unobtrusive director, a filmmaker who lets the script do the walking – in this case, perhaps too much. The characterisation never feels deep enough and he struggles to rein in the comic moments so they don’t jar with the core of the story: a woman lying motionless in a hospital bed. A coma-dy is a brave goal to aim for, but it’s one that Payne just misses despite some nifty work en route.

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Director:

Alexander Payne

Screenwriter:

Alexander Payne

Cast:

George Clooney

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LiveReviews|23
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deec

One of the better films I have watched recently. Really enjoyed the whole film. well worth 4 stars.

Mike

Wow. Another two star performance from Clooney. Though he's brilliant as vain, shallow types like Miles Massey opposite equally vain and shallow Catherine Zeta Jones in Intolerable Cruelty, the moment there's a nano-second of genuine emotion required, Clooney crumbles. . This film is everything you'd dread seeing in celluloid/digital form - badly written, not well acted, not particularly well shot, and unimaginative - these last two totally unforgivable given the film's supposed to be set in Hawaii. The continuity’s terrible from the outset: George hot and sweaty one moment, one second later – not. As for George’s make-up – visible mascara throughout? Who does he think he is, Cheryl Cole or Katie Price? . What beats me is why Clooney or the studios pay so much for PR to lobby “the Academy� so that George scrapes a nomination. The same happened last year with the merely so-so “Up In The Air� – a film saved not by Clooney’s acting, but by the brilliant Vera Fermiga. . Don’t waste your time. Strictly two (generous) stars.

Dave A

I went to this with my wife, expecting the worst as, like many i agree that Clooney's films generally come up a bit short. This one doesn't. It is very good in almost all respects. It is technically good, well acted and the plot and script work well. To me it deserved to win "Best Film" as it is the best that I have seen since "True Grit" (Mk II) . Easily Clooney's best film. The one question that I have is why was it necessary to have the older girl's boyfriend in the film? He added nothing to the plot and, for me, somewhat cheapened the otherwise excellent plot. His only decent contribution was getting punched by father-in-law. However, it's a small gripe - go and see this film!

Dave A

I went to this with my wife, expecting the worst as, like many i agree that Clooney's films generally come up a bit short. This one doesn't. It is very good in almost all respects. It is technically good, well acted and the plot and script work well. To me it deserved to win "Best Film" as it is the best that I have seen since "True Grit" (Mk II) . Easily Clooney's best film. The one question that I have is why was it necessary to have the older girl's boyfriend in the film? He added nothing to the plot and, for me, somewhat cheapened the otherwise excellent plot. His only decent contribution was getting punched by father-in-law. However, it's a small gripe - go and see this film!

David

Went to see this with a few questions: is it that good, is Clooney finally brilliant in a film. Having seen it, its a chore of a watch. The first 45 minutes isnt that bad and you do feel a sympathy for him in that he really has no idea how to be the man he wants to be. However the sentimentality and frankly unbelieveable series of events that take you to the end made me just shake my head in disbelief. I felt the girl that played Alexandra did well in her role as a pseudo-mother figure. But Clooney? His films just leave you with a hollow feeling. There were tidbits that I felt oh use that, and then it went back to this conceited death run. Everyone experiences loss and knows how it feels. This film didnt leave me with that. Just a loss of time.

Peter Ludbrook

I enjoyed the easygoing pace of this film. It gave time for character developement. It was quite clear at the beginning that the Clooney character was a pretty inadequate father but adversity changed him to the extent that there is a wonderful scene where his older daughter defends him. Fine acting from all concerned and a good script. Perhaps it does resonate more with those of us who have suffered the loss of a loved one and been left with children to nurture. But I would have thought that it would take a hard heart not to be touched by two scenes in particular. One where the news that mother will die is conveyed to the youngest daughter and the other where the grumpy grandfather says goodbye to his daughter. Both scenes are done without audible dialogue which makes them even more powerful, something silent film makers well understood. A lovely film that I'm glad to have seen.

Peter Ludbrook

I enjoyed the easygoing pace of this film. It gave time for character developement. It was quite clear at the beginning that the Clooney character was a pretty inadequate father but adversity changed him to the extent that there is a wonderful scene where his older daughter defends him. Fine acting from all concerned and a good script. Perhaps it does resonate more with those of us who have suffered the loss of a loved one and been left with children to nurture. But I would have thought that it would take a hard heart not to be touched by two scenes in particular. One where the news that mother will die is conveyed to the youngest daughter and the other where the grumpy grandfather says goodbye to his daughter. Both scenes are done without audible dialogue which makes them even more powerful, something silent film makers well understood. A lovely film that I'm glad to have seen.

scrumpyjack

Nice enough, but when Clooney snatches the Oscar from Oldman...this will be mainly remembered as "that film where they gave the Oscar to CLEARLY the wrong fella" 7/10

DEWI

The script/story is good but not great.Clooney/cast is good but not great. In short, the film is good but not great.It has very good moments, touching, emotional and comedic but it does not quite reach the heights of the director's masterpiece 'Sideways'. Doubt if it'll remain in my thoughts for more than a few days, unlike 'The Artist'. However , well-worth seeing.

Claude

Sheer enjoyment. As long as you buy into Clooney as the repenting family man this film exemplifies cinema at its best. We are voyeurs in a story of interwined issues, so little happens in the story yet so much meaning. Life is all about these nearly ordinary events (people dying; families not communicating; love lost and found). Through the lens of someone else's story we see our own lives.

Claude

Sheer enjoyment. As long as you buy into Clooney as the repenting family man this film exemplifies cinema at its best. We are voyeurs in a story of interwined issues, so little happens in the story yet so much meaning. Life is all about these nearly ordinary events (people dying; families not communicating; love lost and found). Through the lens of someone else's story we see our own lives.

Sutton

Clooney is good, but this is an average film. The best bits were the young lads interaction with George.

Paul

A crowded cinema to see a average but entertaining story of a middle aged father (me too) and how he reacts to some of the things life can throw at you. As Hollywood goes, a fair attempt and worth a visit if the cinema is warmer than your house or outdoors. I really liked Shailene Woodley's performance and how she related to her father, The antics of the younger child rang true too, so all in all a "life as it is" film if that rocks your boat.

Ian

I will be brief. It is good not great. The film talked to me personally in one of the films various sub plots so I am perhaps giving it a bit too much credit. The scenery and vista are amazing but deep down it is an empty film. I didn't really warm to Sideways and for much of this film I felt much the same. It isn't the best film of the year and Clooney's performance isn't the best. Its good not great.

guy

Have just seen, and think it a very average film, and not one of Clooney's best performances either, as the The American for example. Both do not deserve an Oscar nomination, esp when a film like 'We need to talk about Kevin' is criminally ignored, but then this is the Oscars - more about money than craft!

Alfredo

No special effects, no vampires, no science-fiction, just fine American cinematography, the kind of made Hollywood what it is today. It's about life. A story. It can be good literature too. Anyway, George Clooney deserves an oskar for his role, so does the director, Alekander Payne. And the screenwriter did also a very good job. That's how movies used to look like. Have we forgotten?.

Alfredo

No special effects, no vampires, no science-fiction, just fine American cinematography, the kind of made Hollywood what it is today. It's about life. A story. It can be good literature too. Anyway, George Clooney deserves an oskar for his role, so does the director, Alekander Payne. And the screenwriter did also a very good job. That's how movies used to look like. Have we forgotten?.

S

I absolutely loved this film. Its style was charming, and the narrative ran very naturally and honestly, as opposed to being the usual hyped-up Holywood plot line. One of this years must sees.

S

I absolutely loved this film. Its style was charming, and the narrative ran very naturally and honestly, as opposed to being the usual hyped-up Holywood plot line. One of this years must sees.

Soosie

That's about right - it's a nice film, passed the time pleasantly, Clooney is quite endearing - but am amazed at the awards buzz it's been getting. Guess it's just been a slow year for great films that aren't about shagging so there isn't too much competition. Worth noting that Robert Forster is brilliant in it though, best screen punch of the year for sure.

Ian Pollock

Golden globe winner for best movie and best actor. I just don't get it. Apart from some bad language by the daughters and a coupla plot points it wasn't far off being some kind of Disney family movie. Clooney seems like a nice guy but he is pretty much George Clooney in all his films if you see what I mean. Supposed to be a tear jerker I guess but it was so twee and predictable that for me those set up teary scenes had no impact . Gotta be more deserving movies than this for awards..though the eldest daughter did her bit ok

Jo

An entertaining and poignant film with George Clooney daring to play a frumpy middle aged Dad, with two great new actresses as his daughters. Nicely directed with genuinely funny moments.