The Descendants

A land baron tries to re-connect with his two daughters after his wife is seriously injured in a boating accident.

Writers: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, (screenplay), Kaui Hart Hemmings (Novel)
Director: Alexander Payne
Stars:  George Clooney, Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller
Runtime: 115 Minutes
Popcorn Score: Large Popcorn

I am a very neophyte movie critic, (In fact, so “neophyte” that I originally used the word “novice” and then used a Thesaurus to assist me with a fancier word!) that is, if I have even earned that title yet. I often write about an experience I had while watching movie, or explain how the movie made me feel, hopefully tying in some plot points, and some insightful critiques on the storyline, acting or directing. I saw the movie “The Descendants” last night and I believe I was defeated. I was engaged the entire film, as expected with such a well put together production. I did my best to look at the movie objectively and try to find some pieces that stood out as to why this movie is so good, or where it could have improved, but in the end I left the theater and all I said was “ That was good”

“That was good”? First of all, looking back, that is a tremendous understatement! The movie is way better than “Good”. Secondly,” That was good” is about as well stated as a 1st grader walking out of a Shrek 3 screening!

It was a fantastic, well rounded movie. When I thought I had a question as to why something was happening, my question was answered. When I hoped that the story would develop in a certain way, it twisted its way to my desired location. It ended happy, but it made me feel everything on the way.
I read a couple of other, more professional people’s thoughts on “The Descendants” after I saw it and I believe I am not the only one who found this very well weaved film challenging to dissect.

Glenn Kenny of MSN Movies Writes…

“The new film, co-written and directed by Alexander Payne… is such an exceptional pleasure to experience, so assured at every turn and so humane and engaged and absorbing, that even as a critic… [He or she] is blown away by how well it’s working, he or she wishes most ardently to turn off the analytic apparatus and just melt into the viewing experience.”

Roger Ebert writes…

“The film follows Matt’s legal, family and emotional troubles in careful detail, until Payne shows us, without forcing it, that they are all coiled together. A solution for one must be a solution for all. This is so much more complex than most movie plots, where good and evil are neatly compartmented and can be sorted out at the end.”

The night before I saw “The Descendants” I rented “Sideways”, I had only seen that once many years ago. Sort of an Alexander Payne mini-marathon weekend if you will! I wanted to remind myself of how this very selective writer and director reveals his stories.

Watching both movies I realize his strength is telling a very authentic story, capturing the good with the bad that we all carry with us and experience in life. Although there is always a lead character and focal point; Giamatti in “Sideways”, and Clooney in “The Descendants”, he uses the depth in the supporting cast to make the scenarios seem real. In “The Descendants” Matt King’s (Clooney) daughters (Shailene Woodley) (Amara Miller), cousins (Lead by Beau Bridges), Step Father (Robert Forster) his wife’s paramour (Mathew Lillard) and his wife (Judy Greer) all contribute a massive amount to the personal, emotional, and business issues that King is dealing with during the story. They add the additional and necessary weight that is needed to make a story feel real.

It is a virtually flawless film, just the right length, just the right pacing, just the right amount of comedy, just the right amount of drama…everything is just right. Go out and enjoy this movie!

Large Popcorn.

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