At first glance, the film appears to be a predictable family drama about a father and daughter who must learn how to coexist after a devastating tragedy. However, in his typical style, director Alexander Payne finds a way to ratchet it up a notch by adding additional layers of depth and emotion.
Adapted from Kaui Hart Hemmings’ bestselling novel, The Descendants is a story of a desperate father, Matt King (George Clooney), who is now faced with two problems in his life: a wife who has been left comatose after a boating accident, and two daughters to whom he never had the chance to be a father, yet now finds himself in a situation where he has to be. And if that weren’t enough, his daughter Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) finally admits the gut-wrenching truth about why she is so angry with her mother: Matt’s wife has been cheating on him. So, together with his two daughters and Alexandra’s surfer dude boyfriend, Sid (Nick Krause), Matt embarks on a road trip quest to find the man who has been having an affair with his wife.
Though the film could be considered a tearjerker, Payne and his co-writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, succeeded in balancing the tone with well-placed moments of laughter and comedy. There is an undercurrent of irony throughout the story, yet also a very clear message that people may not always be who we think they are – sometimes they’re better.
Despite the seriousness of the storyline, it is impossible to ignore the beautiful Hawaiian scenery. Interestingly, it reminds us that nothing is ever perfect…even in the midst of a tropical paradise, the dynamics of human nature can leave life feeling less than satisfying. In the end, however, The Descendants is a film that touches your heart and leaves you feeling good inside.
Rebecca Wang – Producer
Rebecca Wang Entertainment