Movie Review: The Descendants (2011)

Posted: May 28, 2012 in Drama
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Matt King (George Clooney) is a blood relative of the last Hawaiian king, King Kamehameha, and because of that lineage, King owns a huge tract of land on the island of Kauai.  Because of new laws preventing people from holding land in perpetuity, he must sell the land.  King has been made sole trustee of the estate, much to the chagrin of his cousins, who are amply spread throughout the islands.  The land deal is the least of King’s problems, his wife is in a coma, his older daughter Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) is reacting to her mother’s hospitalization by drinking and partying in prep school.  His younger daughter, Scottie (Amara Miller) is reacting to her mother’s absence by bullying girls in grade school.  To top it all off, King finds out from Alex that his wife was carrying on an extramarital affair with local real estate mogul Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard) King later learns from his cousin Hugh (Beau Bridges) that Speer will make a ton of money if King sells the property to the wealthy investor he planned to sell it to.  This news makes King even more anxious to meet Speer, so Alexandra, her boyfriend, Sid (Nick Krause) and Matt King all set out to meet the elusive Mr. Speer.  What happens when King meets Speer?

I don’t like this movie.  There are a million things wrong with the story, the oldest child goes from being a wild child to being daddy’s little sweetheart with little or no parenting effort whatsoever.  Matt’s cousins are ubiquitous, can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one of Matt’s cousins, that’s a bit of a recurring joke that doesn’t need to recur.  Does George Clooney look the least bit Hawaiian?  Really?  And am I supposed to be feeling sorry for a multimillionaire living in paradise?  I didn’t, and chances are you won’t either.  The whole structure of the story is slanted, we only hear one side of the string of events, and that’s from Clooney’s point of view, so he is made the victim here, and we see nothing from the wife’s point of view because she is in a coma, and there is no backstory or flashbacks to fill in her side of the story. Finally, it is not a story of redemption because King is written to be flawless.

The acting is ok, especially when Clooney isn’t hogging the camera.  His listless, wan, drab performance makes me wonder if he cares at all about acting.  His monotone delivery is getting to be a staple of his bad performances, and yet critics love the guy, he was nominated as Best Actor for this movie and that truly mystifies me.  He has two facial expressions, bored and annoyed, and neither fit this role, so watching George Clooney trying to emote is painful.  Shailene Woodley is good as Matt’s spunky daughter, but the script makes her increasingly saccharine and she loses the edge that made her character interesting. Lillard plays a soulless creep well, and Nick Krause is a on joke Valley Dude character.

The Descendants:  Low hanging fruit on a big family tree.

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