Good fun but forgettable - Colm2305
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
The opinions expressed here are those of the viewer and do not reflect those of Entertainment.ie. Entertainment.ie accepts no responsibility, legal or otherwise, for their accuracy of content. Please contact us to report abusive content
More uLike Viewer Reviews
not the utopia you know - tetsujin1979
Clooney delivers a deservedly award winning performance as a soon to be widower lawyer in Hawaii who is told if his wife's infedility after she is left in a coma following a boating accident. What... MORE
16 March 2012 16:07
George Clooney shines in Hawaii - Stefano Brucone
Alexander Payne's latest movie has received a lot of attention in the last few weeks for a number of reasons. It is his first film since the wonderful Sideways way back in 2004, it stars George... MORE
29 February 2012 21:22
Touching - A
I loved loved loved this film and was really shocked to hear that so many people were disappointed by it.This is a moving and touching drama about a family in crisis. It was a simple story that... MORE
15 February 2012 12:14
Not worth an Oscar nomination - Fiona74
Ok I'm the first to admit the academy doesn't always get it right when it hands out the Oscar for best movie (remember Shakespeare in Love?) but I cannot understand why this movie is in the running... MORE
09 February 2012 14:10
Is a bit hit and miss - mart1n
This is a bit cuddly and cosy at times. Its like a chick flick for men in a way. That's not a bad thing though as i think it's very good. George Clooney is great here too, playing a character that... MORE
03 February 2012 09:35
Watching paint dry! - cc50
No, did nothing for me . It was like watching paint dry. Too slow and dragged out. No George, seen you do much bettter........ MORE
02 February 2012 11:53
A well rounded movie. - Eoghan Bolger
The descendents The dexcendents is a comedy-drama film starring George Clooney, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, Shailene Woodley, Beau Bridges, Robert Forster, it is directed by Alexander Payne and... MORE
28 January 2012 23:50
Really Fantastic - HHhhhmmmm....
I just had to give this film 5 stars. It is a beautiful portrayal of family, life , death and how to deal. It tells the story of a family living in Hawaii and the mother is in a coma in hospital... MORE
20 January 2012 17:12