How does one approach a film like The Descendants? It isn’t as complex as the dream films you have seen before nor is it intriguing more than the mysterious ones and it’s not that kind of film which boasts of ‘reality’ on screen, moments into the movie; a little after Matt King goes on about his life in Hawaii, the same kind of existential questions that one tends to come across in films about dysfunctional or perhaps sinking families.
As I said, after moments into the movie, it is hardly a movie and I have no idea how American families work apart from a cinematic knowledge of the same which is like meters away from thinking about scratching the surface.
The descendants begins mid-way when the wife of Matt King (George Clooney) goes into a coma from a freak boating accident and chances of revival being close to null, he has now been forced to deal with his two daughters, one in her rebellious teens while the other a problem child. While the former does not speak to her mother, the latter throws chairs into the swimming pool; added to this is the problem of disposing large tracts of virgin Hawaiian land waiting to be gobbled by corporate honchos and hotelier crocodiles all for the sake of badly-doing cousins.
It is only then does he realize that his wife had been having an affair and the search for the secret lover turns into a not so enlightening adventure, although falling into the category of ‘man finding his own self’ genre of English films, The Descendants is actually a sad film told with everyday humor layered with oddball characters; but towering above them is George Clooney giving his heart out in a towering yet silent performance of a grieving good man in crisis. Expertly written and inspiringly directed by Alexander Payne, “the Descendants” brings real life to Hawaii.