Alexander Payne's THE DESCENDANTS
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
The wheels of life grind slowly for all of us. Occasionally they mesh and multiple bad things happen to otherwise ordinary, even nice people. It’s the luck of the draw, or maybe just fate. In the end, we suffer, but how we deal with adversity says a lot about who we are.
This movie illustrates such concepts in spades. George Clooney’s character is the father of two girls, 10 and 17. Despite his wealth and his attempt to work a normal career over the years and not take advantage of his money, he finds himself dealing with a wife who is in an accident-induced coma and dying. He finds that his workaholicism has estranged himself from his daughters. He then discovers that his wife was having an affair when she had her accident. To top it off he is the chief trustee of a huge parcel of beachfront Oahu land whose sale will enrage Hawaiians but will make his extended family insanely rich. How he deals with all this diversity and adversity is the stuff of this movie.
Clooney is superb. His role is neither glamorous nor clever. For most of the movie he muddles through having realized there are no easy answers.
Clooney’s dark, brooding looks illustrate pain and fear. But he keeps on going while constantly seeking to make the right decision, even though events seem to be conspiring against him.
This is not a feelgood movie. Nor is it a mawkish weeper. It’s about life in the real world tinged with both tragedy and comedy.
If you’ve been around a while you’ll recognize that a lot of what you see here rings very true.
Review copyright (c) 2012 by Dennis D. McDonald