The storytelling and the acting make “The Descendants” a title you may hear mentioned many times on February 26 (Oscar night).
“The Descendants” has it all. Good characters. Good story. Most important: the story is told in an entertaining way.
The acting is superb. George Clooney is at this best. Lesser-known Shailene Woodley brings a performance that will lead to bigger roles.
“The Descendants” has parallel story lines which, ungeometrically, do intersect. The plotlines could occur anywhere in the US, but the story is set in Hawaii. (The screenplay is adapted from a novel by Hawaii native Kaui Hart Hemmings, who has a small role in the film.) The beauty of the islands and the attitudes of its residents give the movie a different flavor than it would have were it set in one of the states on the continent.
The main story focuses on Clooney as a workaholic lawyer whose wife has a boating accident. Doctors prepare to disconnect her from life support. Clooney has to inform his family, including two daughters, and friends about her fate. He learns from his older daughter, played by Woodley, that his wife had been cheating on him. His actions and reactions are the core of the movie.
The other plotline involves Clooney’s character’s extended family of cousins, all of whom are direct descendants of King Kamehameha. They are prepared to cash in on the sale of a huge tract of land on one of the islands. Among the cousins is Beau Bridges as an aging hippie bar owner. The collision of the two plotlines results in the some of the movie’s best scenes.
Alexander Payne is the director and co-writer of “The Descendants.” His storytelling skills have been shown in “Sideways,” “About Schmidt” and “Election.” He has, again, delivered a good story and has obtained excellent work from his actors. (In “The Descendants,” which is rated R, Payne has dialed back the raunch a bit from his previous films.)
Will “The Descendants” bring Clooney a nomination for best actor? Book it. Might Woodley win an award nomination? Wouldn’t be surprised. Should you go see this movie now? Yes, definitely!