The Skinny on Alexander Payne and The Descendants


The Descendants

a film by Alexander Payne

From wikipedia synopsis: Matt King, the trustee of his family's ancestral land in Hawaii, tries to reconnect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a serious boating accident and falls into a coma. Under pressure from different factions to sell the land, he belatedly learns a disturbing secret about his wife.

From imdb synopsis: With his wife Elizabeth on life support after a boating accident, Hawaiian land baron Matt King (Clooney), takes his daughters on a trip from Oahu to Kauai to confront the young real estate broker (Lillard) who was having an affair with Elizabeth before her misfortune.

O was I hyped for seeing the new Alexander Payne film The Descendants. I had recently watched again a previous work of Payne's titled About Schmidt starring Jack Nicholson and while watching it I loved again what Payne did with the story and characters such as the one Kathy Bates played. Actually About Schmidt has a very strong supporting cast and I believed in all of them, which says a lot for both them and Alexander Payne.

We have a pretty decent theater in our home town of Louisville called The Baxter and it is relatively easy to get the seat you want there. What used to be a premier theater for seeing indie and foreign films has fell in the past few years to the pressures of the herd and now caters mostly to the masses with their desire for seeing entertaining films with little room for thinking on your own. Let's just say I was excited for myself and my partner because we were going to have a cerebral as well as a funny emotional experience blown up on the big screen. Boy was I wrong. Usually Payne mixes truth with pain and suffering in a comedic way. There was nothing funny in The Descendants . Very sad. One of the saddest films I've seen, and that perhaps is my fault for the baggage I brought to my not-stadium seating. All the talk I heard of George Clooney performing Oscar-type work left me extremely disappointed. There was one scene near the end of the film when he tells his dying wife goodbye that was without a doubt great acting, but that was all. I did not believe in his character at any other time, or any words he said, until that touching and dreadful moment on her death bed.

One of the brightest developments was Shailene Woodley, a young actor who played Clooney's seventeen year old daughter Alexandra. She deserves an award for her role. Fantastic and believable. Beau Bridges was also very good in his cameo. Hard to be Beau with a brother named Jeff. Another promising actor getting a chance to strut his stuff was Nick Krause as Sid, the boyfriend of the character played by Shailene. The character was irritating and seemed to be a loser until getting to know the character better, and he turned into a smart and decent guy. Credit that to both Payne and Krause. On a side note Nick Krause reminded my partner of this fellow who grew up in Louisville, and I had to agree with her when I thought about our friend's unlimited potential for the arts if he only focused and applied himself. The so-far struggling screenwriter, Andrew Wobbe, bears an uncanny resemblance to this actor. The underlying, and one hopes the soon to be tapped, talent of Krause makes me believe he could go on to be the next Philip Seymour Hoffman. Yep, the kid is that good.

It must be said unfortunately that it is possible I am a bigot and/or snob, as I am not a lover of Hawaiian music which plays pretty much nonstop throughout the film. Yes, the film takes place in Hawaii, but in some ways I wish it hadn't. I was afforded the luxurious landscape of much of a land I have never been to and have no plans to visit anytime soon. This stubborn stance probably dates back to my never having been a very big fan of Hawaii Five-O while growing up in the fundamentally conservative woods of northern Michigan and being raised a Lutheran by strict parents.

But I am not a Payne hater. I love his work most times. I especially loved Sideways and believe it is better than the credit the film has received. I was hoping for The Descendants to be a blend somewhere between About Schmidt and Sideways but got something that did not resemble anything, as in numb, except for the tears. And there were plenty of those.

So the wrap-up is sadly as follows: the film pretty much sucks.

Official Trailer for The Descendants

Comments 7 comments

champ 5 years ago

Oh no, I was on my way to see it today. Didn't expect sad and tears

mewlhouse profile image

mewlhouse 5 years ago from Louisville Author

I didn't either, obviously. I usually love this guy's stuff. He cracks me up in a serious way. Thanks for reading, Champ.

shea duane profile image

shea duane 5 years ago from new jersey

Thanks for the honest review.

mewlhouse profile image

mewlhouse 5 years ago from Louisville Author

Thank you for reading it.

Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Well I shan't bother. Rarely go to the movies any more I like funny films that make me laugh. One can watch the news any day to be sad!

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM

I disagree with your synopsis. I think it is a great film and one worthy of an Oscar for Clooney. I think this is Clooney's best work to date. I thought his acting and eye and facial expressions were spot on when he learns of his wife's betrayal and the humiliation he feels learning this from his own daughter, Alexandra.

I think the unlovely shots of Hawaii are a fitting backdrop and foil against the beautiful, virgin Hawaiian land that he owns through the trust. His final decision with the land lends to the "unparadise" shots of Hawaii we see from his viewpoint. I love all the leaves in the uncleaned swimming pool. I thought that was a marvelous touch. I also loved the casting for this film and I found all the characters believable.

I'm not even a George Clooney fan, but I loved him in this particular film!

mewlhouse profile image

mewlhouse 4 years ago from Louisville Author

I guess we shall agree to disagree. But thanks for reading.

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