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The Decent “Descendants”

Who’d have ever thought that a man who starred on “The Facts of Life” would become one of our generations greatest actors. George Clooney is a true Hollywood movie star, like Cary Grant or Humphrey Bogart style star. Over the years he’s proved that he can play anything: action star, leading man, comedic relief, or dramatic lead.

The Descendants” is another good film to add to Clooney’s already impressive resume.

The film, written and directed by Alexander Payne (“Sideways“), is about a lucrative Hawaiian business man and land baron (Clooney) who gets an opportunity to reconnect with his two daughters when his wife is left comatose after a boating accident. While dealing with his wife’s deteriorating health he finds out that she was having an affair and thinking about divorce.

Payne’s last few films have all centered on middle-aged men going through a mid-life crisis of sorts and he’s very good at them. The story and characters feel real and authentic. The entire film feels grounded in reality, which is hard when you’re shooting on Kauai and Oahu.

Most films shot in Hawaii play up the tropical paradise aspect, making it look all shiny and sparkly. It’s easy to forget that people actually live there and it’s all not just one big resort. “Descendants” is completely story driven and while the setting is an important aspect to that, it’s not the sole focus.

The acting is top-notch here. Clooney is dependable and makes good choices when choosing his scripts. (He makes you almost forget he was Batman.) But I was more impressed with up and coming actress Shailene Woodley, who plays Clooney’s oldest daughter Alexandra. Woodley brings real emotion and depth to what could have been a throw-away angry teen role.

The pacing of this movie is really the only thing about this movie I didn’t like. It’s really slow. It’s not a huge deturrent for me but it definitely took me out of the story a few times and I was just thinking to myself, “Come on, get on with it.”

I enjoyed this film, a lot. And while I’ll gush about the cast I’m not absolutely raving about the movie as a whole. It’s a heart-wrenching film about a man trying to do what’s best for his family. It’s sweet, and funny, and sad, and definitely worth a watch.

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