20 April 2012

Movies: The Descendants

The Descendants (2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1033575/


Matt King is a lawyer by trade and lives on Oahu in the Hawaiian islands. Descended of King Kamehameha's daughter that married a haolie he is the sole trustee in control of a large tract of land on Kauai. By law the trust will dissolve in seven years, so out of respect for his living cousins he's been meeting with them to collaboratively discuss selling the land off and splitting the money.
During this time his wife is in a boating accident. He retrieves his oldest daughter (17) from private school so she can be with him and his other daughter (7). As his job kept him away from home much of the time he had little idea how to interact with his kids and vice versa. As the damage to her brain is so great that, per stipulation of her living will, she will be taken off life support. As Matt tries to reconnect with his daughters he finds out why his oldest had such a rebellious and contentious attitude. She had caught her mother having an affair with another man. When she tells Matt, Matt's world falls apart even more.  Matt decides to track the guy down on Kauai and ends up making a family vacation out of the trip.

The film is a character drama exploring the relationships between Matt, his daughters, his comatose wife, their friends, her parents, his wife's adulterous love interest.

Stars George Clooney as Matt. Also Robert Forster, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, Beau Bridges. Some greats in the cast and the supporting cast does quite well too. Good acting, great scenery, production and writing.  Directed and co-written by Alexander Payne, writer/director of "Sideways" and producer of "Cedar Rapids".

The story is poignant and funny. I thought it a well-written well-acted moving story with humor appropriate to the events in the story. As dark as some life events may be humor still occurs and they capture it perfectly. I was also impressed by the character depth explored, not just in the primaries but in a few of the supporting cast as well. Things mattered. People grew. A great balance of the serious and humorous. Thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying film.

It won an Oscar for  Best Adapted Screenplay, one of the writers is Jim Rash, Dean Pelton on "Community". That was actually one of the reasons why I decided to see the film. I don't normally go for films that at first blush seem to be just another family drama, but I heard a lot of good things about this film, saw the Oscar win, and Rash's Dean Pelton is hilarious. Knowing Rash comes from an improv background and thus far I only recall him in comedic roles I was curious how his skills translated into a drama.
Out of curiosity I checked Jim Rash's resume - apparently I've seen him more than I thought, including roles in "Minority Report" and "One Hour Photo". I might just have to watch those again to see if I can spot him. In any case, congrats to him and Nat Faxon and Alexander Payne for the Oscar win.

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