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The Descendants | The Clapper Bored

The Descendants

Words by Lewis Fox

Has Alexander Payne ever made a bad film? To put it bluntly, no.  His ability to marry the comic and the tragic speaks to the very essence of cinema. Election, About Schmidt and Sideways are nigh on perfection, films able to have you welling up one moment and laughing out loud the next.

To say I was excited about watching The Descendants is an understatement; I’ve been craving another opportunity to see Payne’s work since his beautiful contribution 2006′s Paris Je’ Taime. So with eyes wide I stared, just waiting for his genius to overwhelm me again, waiting… just waiting, and then it was over.  Unfortunately The Descendants is unable to muster the balance thats defined Paynes work, and maybe, for the first time in his career, he’s faltered.

It’s story is classic Payne, Matt King (Clooney) is a father of two daughters, one an off the rails teen, the other a troublesome inquisitor. And if that wasn’t bad enough his wife is comatose after a boating accident.  He also happens to be the trustee of a multi-million dollar piece of Hawaii real estate which he’s under pressure to sell.  

You can already see where the tragedy lies in the tale, but it wouldn’t be Payne without his customary comic touch, which unfortunately has deserted him here. He tries, but the tragic notes are so frequent that the comedic scenes feel, frankly, immature. It’s also a struggle to connect emotionally as the story is somewhat predictable and one note at times.  It wallows, rather than flows.

It’s saving grace? The acting talent on display is superb, Clooney gives an honest and touching performance as the stricken father.  There’s also a breakout performance by Shailene Woodley as the elder daughter who carries many of the films more touching scenes.

A noble effort from a talented director who I’m sure will be back, but this isn’t his finest hour, as much as I wanted it to be.

Title: The Descendants
Director: Alexander Payne
Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Matthew Freakin' Lillard.
Running Time: No idea.
Certificate: 15


  1. Beatlesfan says:

    I agree with the review, and it was well written, but take the time to find stuff like the Runtime instead of writing “No Idea”. I don’t really care what it is, but if I did, I’d find that pretty unprofessional.. Just a tip.

  2. Nick says:

    It’s a long running joke on the site to just make rough approximations of the runtime. Sorry if that seems unprofessional but this isn’t Wikipedia ;)