Sunday, January 8, 2012

“The Descendants”: Trouble In Paradise

Alexander Payne, who directed “About Schmidt” (2002) and “Sideways” (2004), has again focused on a conflicted male protagonist examining his life in “The Descendants”–and the results are again outstanding. George Clooney plays Matt King, a real estate lawyer who tells us that his state, Hawaii, is not necessarily paradise; people there have their own challenges. His story quickly proves it. Along with his cousins, Matt is involved in a deal to sell breathtakingly pristine land long held in the family to developers. He is also bidding goodbye to his wife who is in a coma following a boat accident. Matt finds out that his wife was committing adultery, adding to his turmoil. In addition, Matt, up to now the “backup parent,” is suddenly in charge of two difficult daughters, Scottie (Amara Miller), 10, and Alex (Shailene Woodley), 17, who must also cope with their mother’s impending death. As Matt tries to locate and speak to his wife’s former lover, he also has to come to terms with his relationship with his wife, re-establish himself with his daughters and deal with his cousins. His struggles are presented through a realistic narrative and an excellent cast that form the basis of this deeply moving film. 

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