The Descendants (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

The Descendants” (2011)
84th Academy Awards (2012)
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 5 awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Best Picture (Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, and Jim Taylor), Best Actor (George Clooney), Directing (Alexander Payne), and Film Editing (Kevin Tent).
Won Writing–Adapted Screenplay (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash).
Watched August 19, 2012.


“George Clooney gives the performance of his life as a man in search of a moral compass on a Hawaii that is no paradise” (Guardian).



I LOVE this film.  I saw it last year with my mom (back when I worked at a movie theatre and saw almost every movie known to mankind) and couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.  The cinematography, coupled with the writing and acting create something beautiful, raw, and captivating.


The Descendants is an Alexander Payne genius adaptation from the original book by Kaui Hart Hemmings.  It follows Matt King (George Clooney), the direct descendant of a Polynesian Princess who married an American missionary’s businessman son.  He and his cousins are temporarily still owners of an impressive piece of untouched Hawaiian paradise, but due to certain laws toward trusts, the land must be sold, which would make the family multimillionaires–again.  Matt alone holds all the cards because he is the trustee.


This isn’t the only trick life has handed him.  His wife (Patricia Hastie) was recently in a boating accident where she hit her head and is now in a coma.  Matt must take the driver’s seat in parenting for his sassy 10 year old daughter Sammie (Amara Miller) and alcoholic, 17 year old daughter Alexandra (Shailene Woodley).  One life punch after another, Payne travels the fine line between comedy and drama, leading Clooney to his best performance to date.


The ironic and distinctive character types come together in a brilliant clash in this character driven exploration of life, love, and the messiest parts of existence.  Enhanced by the incredible cinematography and classic hawaiian soundtrack, it is easy to lose one’s self in this hilarious, devastating, island-hopping road to self discovery.  The only thing I could find wrong with “The Descendants” in the Oscars were its limited nominations, single win, and that Woodley didn’t manage to score herself a nomination.


It isn’t a light hearted chick flick, or an action packed Die Hard film.  Nor is it a comedy in comparison with today’s favorites of “Ted” and “21 Jump Street.”  Despite all of this, do yourself a favor and see this film to experience Clooney’s stellar performance, Woodley’s exquisite characterization, and Payne’s untouchable genius.

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