The Descendants

December 3, 2011 - George Clooney has some big decisions to make in this family drama directed and co-written by Alexander Payne (Sideways). The cast also includes Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, Beau Bridges, Michael Ontkean and a wonderful young actress named Shailene Woodley. The film is based on a book by Kaui Hart Hemmings, who has a small role in the movie.

Clooney plays Matt King, a real estate attorney who happens to have a lot of real estate himself. King and his family are descended from Hawaiian royalty, and King is the sole trustee of a pristine chunk of land on the island of Kauai. For legal reasons, the trust will dissolve in seven years, so Matt and kin are preparing to sell now to a developer. The final decision on what to do is up to Matt.

As the time to make that decision ticks down, Matt also has another big decision to make. Namely, how to tell his daughters and family friends that his wife is going to die. She's been comatose since a power boat accident a month ago and the time has come to take her off life support. The situation brings Matt closer to his two estranged daughters and brings to light the truth about his marriage.

Overall review: *** (even though it's more like 2.5, but I'll round up due to the performances). Clooney is great and so is Shailene Woodley, who plays his oldest daughter. Their performances help cover up elements of the movie that served as distractions throughout.

For example, the soundtrack of Hawaiian music seemed overdone. It was charming at first but, by the end of the film, seemed annoying. Another example is Clooney's wardrobe of Hawaiian shirts, khakis and sandals. They never seemed to fit properly. All I can figure is that he wore ill-fitting clothes to make his character appear pudgy and the sandals helped him run awkwardly for comic effect.

And, thirdly, why is Michael Ontkean in this movie? He's a recognizable actor, but his character hardly speaks, if at all. According to IMDB, Ontkean lives in Hawaii, so perhaps he was convenient. But, still. Give the man some lines!

Don't get me wrong. The main characters are interesting and there are quite a few humorous moments. The movie is totally watchable as you're watching it. But, the more I think about the movie, the more I feel that it's not as watchable as it seems.