The Descendants (15)
Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
May 16, 2012
Director: Alexander Payne
Running Time: 115 mins
With an Oscar-winning screenplay adapted from Kaui Hart Hemmings’ debut novel of the same name, The Descendants revolves around Matthew King (George Clooney), a Hawaii-based lawyer who has become distanced from his wife Elizabeth and two daughters, 10 year old Scottie (Amara Miller) and 17 year old Alex (Shailene Woodley). Alex has been running wild at boarding school, drinking and hanging out with older men, while Scottie seems to be following in her older sister’s footsteps by constantly getting into trouble at school. However, things begin to change for the family following a motor-boating accident, which leaves Elizabeth in a coma.
The Descendants is filmed primarily around Honolulu and Hanalei Bay with a soundtrack of Hawaiian music by artists including Keola Beamer, Sonny Chillingworth and Gabby Pahinui. The cinematography is rather subdued, resembling an old Super 8 cine film, to match the tone of the story. However, The Descendants is a complex mixture of pathos and humour with Clooney running around the islands not only trying to understand and cope with his unruly children but also trying to come to terms with the knowledge that his comatose wife was having an affair with smarmy real estate agent Brian Peer (Matthew Lillard) prior to her accident and was planning to ask for a divorce.
Running parallel to the story of a broken family attempting to rebuild their relationship is the story of how Matt is also the sole trustee of 25,000 acres of inherited land on the island of Kaua’i. As the King family prepare to sell off the land to local developer Don Holitzer, Matt discovers that the developer’s brother-in-law is none other than Speer, who stands to gain a chunk of that money on commission. After being told by the doctor that his wife will never regain consciousness, Matt tracks down Speer to give him an opportunity to say goodbye to Elizabeth before turning off her life support machine. However, when Speer tells Matt that the affair meant nothing to him, Matt refuses to sign the papers to sell the land, infuriating his cousin Hugh (Beau Bridges) who threatens to sue Matt (a joke, as Matt is a high-flying lawyer whose work had ultimately caused Elizabeth to have an affair and his daughters to go off the rails!). The ending is rather sickly sweet (literally) as Matt settles down on the sofa with his two daughters to eat ice cream and watch a movie.
As always, there was a good crowd in the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall not surprisingly largely female due to the appeal of the film’s male star. And Clooney certainly deserved his Oscar nomination, losing out to Frenchman Jean Dujardin, star of The Artist, which is the next film to be shown on 22 May as part of the 2012 Liverpool Philharmonic film series.
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