The Descendants

The Descendants

Good fun but forgettable - Colm2305

10 Points

Viewer Rating:Colm2305 has rated The Descendants rating: 3 Star

It is refreshing to see Hawaii portrayed on screen as it really is. An island paradise yes, but one with traffic jams, ugly high rise buildings and the same demographic of sick and homeless people as any other place in the world, all underlined by the awareness of how this place once populated by native Hawaiians and their unique culture has sadly lost its ground to mainland America and the luggage that comes with it. It's a place as prone to romanticism and stereotyping as our own Ireland. The Descendants wisely sidesteps the surfing and hula dancing and replaces it with a more realistic view, injecting it with a story of greedy families and confused emotions that could easily be set anywhere. It's a deeply flawed but often successful film, likely to continue George Clooneys world dominance.

Dealing with his wife in a coma she may never wake up from along with pressure from his relatives to sell inherited land much to the dismay of the locals, Clooney plays under pressure Hawaiian Matt King. Always one to take a back seat in parenting he now finds himself thrown in the deep end with his two daughters and their dysfunctional behaviour. Thrown into the mix we get his resentful father in law, stoner Sid, and the news that his wife had been having an affair with real estate agent Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard). Trying to make sense of it all Matt drags his daughters (and Sid) around the Hawaiian islands searching for clarity to the situation.

Director Payne (Sideways, About Schmidt) is the master of light hearted quirky comedies. He continues his good run with The Descendants, maintaining a pleasant tone and enough laughs to make this an enjoyable feel good affair. He skillfully balances the tone between drama and comedy, knowing the appropriate time to let a scene tip into one, before bringing it right back to the other. This constant change of tone keeps the audience alert and interested, there's never a dull moment. His biggest achievement with The Descendants is with the chemistry between Matt and his two daughters. The dialogue between them always seems genuine and natural. Unlike the recent Hugo the young actors scenes never feels forced or staged, something quite difficult to achieve when you're asking a kid to share the screen with the enigma that is George Clooney.

Clooney is great as we've come to expect, but this is the kind of role he could sleepwalk now. He looks and acts uncomfortable yet smoothly, he has a funny run, and despite the situation never loses control, always maintaining polite calm. He's fun to have on screen and holds it all together nicely, nothing ground breaking but classic Clooney.

Payne opens the film with a heavy use of voiceover narration by Clooney, explaining to us way too much about the situation. Payne should have toned this down as the relationship between his characters explains more than these forced lines do. It cheapens the film slightly. He also insists on using the character Sid (Nick Krause) a teenage stoner. As much fun as Sid is, that is all he is. He exists solely for throwing in some comic relief. Maybe Payne is trying to appeal to a certain demographic of cinema goers but he surely could have found a slicker way of getting some funny lines in without a token stoner. The scene in which Sid explains to Matt his recent loss is pointless and only adds to a character that isn't necessary. Said scene starts with Clooney deciding to wake up Sid, a character he despises, but for some reason feels like sharing his emotions with. It's an implausible scene, and there's many in the film. If Payne could have steeped his films characters emotions in more of an honest reality he really could have been onto something with The Descendants, instead the realism he portrays Hawaii with is lost in favour of quirky humour. Several scenes could have done with being cut too, the detour to the Big Island to pick up his eldest daughter from boarding school is pointless, and a scene with real life big wave surfer (Laird Hamilton) playing the cause of his wife's coma is just bad and is never returned to.

A very pleasant and enjoyable two hours in the cinema but you'll forget about it just as quick.

Review published on the 02 February 2012 10:17


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