The Descendants

The Descendants is a film directed by Alexander Payne.  Payne is someone moviegoers will know because he directed the films About Schmidt, Election, and Sideways.  The Descendants stars George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Matthew Lillard, and Judy Greer.  The film revolves a man trying to connect with his two daughters after their mother is injured in an accident.

The Descendants is the kind of film that can break your heart the longer you watch it.  George Clooney as the father of two daughters is perfectly imperfect.  Clooney plays Matt King as a man who is not only broken hearted by his wife’s condition but also he is frustrated by having to parent both of his daughters by himself.  I loved the way Clooney’s frustrations played out from one scene to the next.  Alexander played with depth by Shailene Woodley curses a lot and has anger towards her mother and father.  She has a scene in the beginning where she learns how severe her mother’s injuries have gotten and her reaction to the news is not only jarring but painfully realistic.  Amara Miller who plays Scottie has some of the film’s few laughs.  The laughs don’t come from funny jokes she tells or physical movements she makes, they come from her feeble attempts to emulate her older sister Alexandra.

The place where I believe The Descendants succeeds the most is with its characters.  All of the films characters are honest about their emotions.  The raw emotions these characters feel gives the film its heart.  Matt King is honest with his wife about problems in their marriage.  Alexandra is honest with her dad about how she personally feels about her mom and how the accident that resulted in her mother’s hospitalization has affected her.  Every actor plays their part in this film with honest and a deep respect for the material they have been given.  This film has a lot of heart because of the natural performances the cast gives.  My main problem with this film is its continuous usage of foul language.  All of the characters while natural and relatable seem to believe that the only way to release the anger they feel inside is to curse.  This was a major turn off for me in such a powerful film.  In some cases, the amount of cursing hindered the strength of the story for me.

This film is ultimately about a broken family supporting each other during a very intense and difficult crisis.  Films like this exist to teach us how much we should be valuing and appreciating our own families.  I don’t think Alexander Payne was trying to show the audience how a broken family heals after a tragedy; I believe he wanted to show us that when you lose everything family will remind you where home is.  Home is in the heart where love and family lives.

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