The Descendants

When a film gets nominated for Best Picture at the Oscar a certain amount of expectations comes along with it. I watched this after the awards ceremony and I have to say I came away a little disappointed.  It was not Best Picture quality.  More like an overdramatic movie of the week if I’m to be completely honest. I think that all the hype around the film was due to Hollywood’s love of George Clooney and not about the quality of the film.

Matt King (George Clooney – Syriana, Up in the Air) is a Hawaiian real-estate lawyer. Tragedy has struck his family as his wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie – Princess Ka’iulani) has gotten into a boating accident and is being kept alive by machines. Now Matt has become the primary (instead of the backup) parent for their two daughters, rebellious teenager Alexandra (Shailene Woodley – from television’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager) and his youngest Scottie (Amara Miller – first film).

Elizabeth’s condition worsens and he is told by her doctors that there is not point keeping her on the machines any more.  Matt decides to bring his daughter Alex home from boarding school so she can say goodbye to her mother. Alex is resentful and not very warm towards her dying mother. When Matt presses her she blurts out that Elizabeth had been having an affair.  Matt is stunned.  He knew that they were having problems, but never suspected an affair.

His plate is now full.  Matt has to deal with the knowledge that his wife is dying and that she was having an affair.  He is also in the middle of a huge family land deal to sell of the last part of virgin land they own on the island of Kauai.  Matt is holding his family together by a string.

Alexander Payne’s (Sideways, About Schmidt) film is warm and occasionally witty, but not his best effort.  The only performance in the film that was noteworthy was that of Shailene Woodley’s.  Who knew that the young lady from the insipid television show The Secret Life of the American Teenager had such talent!?  Her performance blew me away and it was Oscar nomination worthy.  Woodley was a revelation for me.

George Clooney’s was not. I will go to my grave insisting it wasn’t.  It is not enough that miracle of all miracles he was able to convincingly portray a schlumpy middle aged man who wears bad Hawaiian shirts. I was not impressed with his flip floppy run down the street to friends’ house to demand they tell him who his wife was seeing. Again, movie of the week stuff, people.  Somehow Clooney has hypnotized people into believing that he can walk on water and that everything he does is gold.  Well, I for one, am not fooled.

There is no denying that the story is well written (Payne did win an Oscar for Best Screenplay – Adapted) and it was a wise thing to temper all the darkness with comedy and quirkiness.  It is a good film to watch as a time filler on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I’m just not convinced that it was Oscar calibre.

Special Features:

-Everybody Loves George

-Working With Alexander

-Hawaiian Style

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