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Monday, November 7, 2011

THE DESCENDANTS

A NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

By D.E.Levine

Director Alexander Payne brings us a drama/comedy that centers on Matt King (George Clooney) a lawyer, descendant of Hawaiian royalty and an indifferent father of two daughters.

When his wife Elizabeth is injured in a boating accident off Waikiki and lays comatose and dying in the hospital, Matt is forced to re-examine his life.

As he struggles to re-connect with his 10 and 17-year old daughters and assume the active role of father, Matt has to face the reality of his wife's infidelity and also decide whether to sell the land given to his family by Hawaiian royalty and missionaries. His relatives have given him the responsibility, even as different cousins politic for their favorite buyer and deal.

While they say actors should never act with pets or children, Clooney, who is single and has no children, has stepped outside his comfort zone and is totally believable in the role of father and deceived husband.

His co-stars are Shailene Woodle (playing a rebellious 17-year old Alexandra), Amara Miller (playing 10-year old Scottie) and Nick Krause as Alexandra's teenage family friend, with Beau Bridges as Matt's cousin and Judy Greer as the wife of his wife's lover.

It's angry and surly Alexandra who drops the bombshell that her mother was cheating on Matt. Her anger over the affair and the fact that her father is completely unaware explains much of her behavior. Much of the movie is devoted to Matt, an inept stalker if ever there was one, trying to locate the "other man."

There are several plots, and Payne, who also contributed to writing the script, lets things unwind in a leisurely fashion instead of rushing from one plot to the next. The grief and anger on the part of the main characters, and the emotional reactions are complex but completely believable in this outstanding ensemble film.