The Evolution of THE DESCENDANTS

George Clooney

The movie THE DESCENDANTS is based on the book by Kaui Hart Hemmings, and stars George Clooney. It concerns the trustee and part owner of a pristine parcel of Hawaiian beachfront property whose wife is in a coma, and who then learns she’s been having an affair (with whom is yet another kicker.)  Now Mr. King must attend to his family in a way he’s neglected up to now, particularly his daughters.  Hawaiian cousins there are many, most of them hoping to be rich soon, which puts Clooney’s decision maker in the pickle of deciding whether to sell, and to whom. As a debut novel, it’s a believable and quirky work, and Hemmings is particularly adept at framing dialogue which sounds authentic.  In the movie Clooney has a gift for inhabiting a character’s persona, and he is comfortable at being uncomfortable in King’s skin.  Both seriously sad and funny at the same time, the film and book are reminiscent of the book and movie “Sideways,” and indeed both movies have the same director.  Which movie is better is a matter of taste, and although it is perhaps unfair to compare films, they are both similar in tone as well, (as was “About Schmidt,” another incredible–albeit small–film directed by Alexander Payne.)  I suppose I’ll not see “The Descendants” again.  On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind seeing “Sideways” again (or “About Schmidt” for its twist emotional ending/impact), since the self destructive hilarity of those films, together with their touching self revelations, are truly memorable.  Director Alexander Payne is certainly someone to watch evolve, for good or ill, and despite his comments on Charlie Rose that he’s just making nice films he didn’t think were particularly $Important$, these are just the kind of films that Hollywood needs to make more of–as opposed to big, loud, or exploitative 3-D special effects blockbusters with 1-D characters.  These three are among my own favorites, too.

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