Title: The Descendants

Director: Alexander Payne

Cast: George Clooney, Judy Greer, Shailene Woodley, Matthew Lillard, Beau Bridges, Robert Forster and Amara Miller

Life gets easily interrupted with, well, life. It’s so easy to fall into routines, trying to make up for lost time and getting comfortable with your situation. Sooner or later, those routines get in the way and you forget what’s the most important thing to you, your family. Dealing with work, or school leaves you with blinders to the rest of the world but then the rest of the world, sneaks up behind you to give you a real dose of life. It’s important when these bouts of life come out of nowhere to hit us over the head, to always try to keep your head despite life trying to knock it off. In the new film from Alexander Payne, life is not that easy to stay on top of.

Matt King (George Clooney) is a lawyer from Hawaii. He has his practice which is his main source of income, but he is also the descendant of Hawaiian royalty, whom entrusted him and his cousins a beautiful piece of land that most of them want to sell for commercial and private investors. Matt’s life becomes fragile when his wife gets into a boating accident and quickly falls into a coma. Now Matt must deal with trying to manage his two young daughters, while trying to care for his dying wife and manage his family’s land deal. To many filmmakers, this premise would seem to be over bloated and somewhat convoluted, but for Alexander Payne, he does an extraordinary job balancing the different story lines and characters, while at the same time, showing a man trying to do his best at keeping his family and inheritance together. A real emotionally resonant film emerges here.

As Matt King, George Clooney is shown in a different light from other films he has starred in, he’s a father in “The Descendants”. Giving a wonderful performance managing compassion, rage, understanding and eventually complacency, Clooney is strong and sympathetic in all of these roles. Smartly, Payne never makes this film saccharine or precious, and when this film inches towards those ends, they are quickly extinguished as the plot drives on. It would be easy to have King’s younger daughter, Scottie (Amara Miller), end up to be some sort of precocious mix of Abigail Breslin and ChloĆ« Grace Moretz, but the character never devolves into that, but rather she emerges to display pathos.

Taking into question this family when we are introduced to, who on the surface appear to be unlikeable and shrude, but as the film unfolds they are the complete opposite. They are a family in need. But as we soon will learn, this need started before the accident and not the result of it, which is refreshing to try not to feel ambivalence toward Matt’s wife. Payne takes these tropes that we might find in lesser made-for-TV movies and turns them on their head. The characters are both mean-spirited and compassionate; dull and exciting, and in this way, “The Descendants” is an intimate look at a family trying to do their best in life, whether or not if it’s convenient for the story. This adds an additional layer of meaning and sincerity.

“The Descendants” is a prime example of how to balance complicated story lines with honest emotion. This is a delicate balance and would be easy to ruin the dynamic of the characters or the story, ask Cameron Crowe with “Elizabethtown”. Alexander Payne is back and he delivers an extraordinary movie, capped off with George Clooney at his best, playing the patriarch of a family trying to do their best.

Technical: A-

Acting: A-

Story: B

Overall: B+

by @Rudie_Obias

The Descendants

By Rudie Obias

Lives in Brooklyn, New York. He's a freelance writer interested in cinema, pop culture, sex lifestyle, science fiction, and web culture. His work can be found at Mental Floss, Movie Pilot, UPROXX, ScreenRant, Battleship Pretension and of course Shockya.com.

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