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Home » Film

The Descendants

Submitted by MBergeron on November 17, 2024 – 6:05 pmNo Comment

For The Descendants director Alexander Payne has moved into a world of pure drama. This contrasts with his earlier films that had an edge of satire (Citizen Ruth, Election) or a moody humor (About Schmidt, Sideways). One thing remains constant and that’s Payne’s ability to write career high parts for his actors.

The King family lords over a large parcel of land in Hawaii and as executor of the estate George Clooney (Matt King) must decide how and when to sell off said land to the advantage of the family. But in-laws aside Matt has to deal with more pressing issues, namely his wife being in a coma after a sports boating accident. While Matt’s hardly estranged from his two daughters he has refused to come to grips with their youthful rebellious streaks. Additionally the eldest daughter (Shailene Woodley) caustically drops the bomb that mom’s been sleeping with a local realtor.

The Descendants never felt like it was bragging, in the sense that the characters don’t grandstand and steal scenes, at least until the end and a tearful monologue played to perfection by Judy Greer. Never veering into comedy save for Shailene’s boyfriend who cracks a few wiseacre remarks, The Descendants wants its audience to feel the emotion, if not the pain, that these characters are experiencing.

The soundtrack consists mostly of slack guitar melodies and the look of the film emphasizes how Hawaii is more of a suburban residential area than a tourist paradise. The irony that the King family stands to make half-a-billion by selling virgin property when they’re still cleaning their own pools and having business powwows dressed in casual Hawaiian shirts looms large. Payne stretches the land deal over the narrative but he’s really made a film about bereavement. Those who want to wallow in that grief stricken comfort zone will be the biggest fans of The Descendants.

- Michael Bergeron

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