The Descendants

Movies, Drama
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George Clooney and Shailene Woodley in The Descendants
George Clooney and Shailene Woodley in The Descendants

George Clooney's bedraggled basset hound features have never been better exploited than in Alexander Payne's perceptive and moving dramedy about a Hawaiian household in mourning. The Hollywood superceleb effortlessly dials down the star-power wattage as Matt King, ceaselessly apprehensive scion of an Aloha State brood that goes back generations. Matt's now facing twin challenges: the potentially lucrative sale of a prime parcel of land and the impending death of his wife, Elizabeth (Hastie), who lies in an irreversible coma after a boating accident.

Elizabeth haunts every frame of The Descendants; Payne even begins the film with a loving, lingering close-up of her face that so precisely distills her character, it breaks your heart. In short, she's no saint: Matt is quick to acknowledge their marriage had problems, but even he is shocked when his bellicose eldest daughter (Woodley) reveals that Mom was having an affair. So begins a leisurely, islandhopping road trip as Matt and his children spread the word about Elizabeth's terminal condition and seek out the illicit lover. As ever, Payne---adapting a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings---walks a fine line between caricature and compassion. Only a bedside monologue by "other woman" Judy Greer tips into the spiteful burlesque that marks the director at his droopy-breasted--Kathy Bates worst. Otherwise, this is an exquisite portrait of a family navigating the wreckage imparted to them by one of their own.

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By: Keith Uhlich


Release details

Rated: R
Release date: Friday November 18 2011
Duration: 115 mins

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