‘Descendants:’ Flawed character perfect for Clooney

By Cristina DC Pastor

‘The Descendants’
Produced, written and directed by Alexander Payne
Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Just when you thought Matt King’s (superbly acted by George Clooney) search for his comatose wife’s lover was the major plot running through “The Descendants,” you find out quickly enough that it’s only the teaser.

First you need to know who the lover is and then ask yourself till the end: Will King sell or not?

That’s the beauty of this Alexander Payne family drama set in Hawaii. Nothing is what it seems. The conflicts are true-to-life, and they’re not cast in clichés. The actors dissolve into their characters such that we are looking past Clooney’s smoldering good looks and commiserating with his character as the burdened father who makes the decision to unplug his wife from life support, reins in his two rebellious daughters and ultimately weighs the wisdom of selling ancestral landholdings that belong to his family and kin.

The film starts out engagingly enough. King’s wife Liz (Patricia Hastie) figures in a freak boating accident which leaves her in a coma. King, the workaholic real estate lawyer and absentee breadwinner, is forced to step up and be the parent his daughters never knew. He confronts two bull-headed daughters – the dirty-finger flashing 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller) and her older sister Alex (Shailene Woodley) who does drugs in her dorm.

When King finds out his wife is having an affair and is planning to file for divorce, he is out on a mission to find the guy. Not to exact revenge, he says, but to let him know that Liz won’t be around for long. The lover, Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard), turns out to be a prominent real estate broker. He is also related to a Hawaii millionaire who is bidding on vast landholdings King’s clan is trying to dispose of as required by Hawaii’s law against perpetuities.

So back to the question: Will Matt King sell or not? Will he sell to the bidder related to Speer and yet again benefit the guy who has romanced his wife? Is disposing of the land the right thing to do? How will his cousins react to the decision? Does he have other options?

Whatever he ends up doing, King rounds up the many conflicts running through his life and paves the way for his family to move forward as a whole.

The film examines the flawed King character so delicately and beautifully such that the decision he ultimately makes may not necessarily be his redemption.

One Comment

  1. Sheila wrote:

    Thanks for writing this review. I enjoyed the movie, Clooney’s best thus far.

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