After his wife has a boating accident, lawyer Matt King is left to pick up the pieces and help his two daughters cope with what has happened. As Matt makes decisions regarding real estate, his wifes health and the well being of his daughters, he must also deal with his own emotions and realizations about what comes next for everyone.
Beautifully written, the complete opposite of what has become the norm for the type of genre it falls under. What The Descendants captures so well are the moments where people are hesitant and unsure of what it is they are dealing with. The Descendants captures the essence of a modern day family. The parents always busy with their jobs, the teenager off at school, and the younger sibling caught in the middle of a mess they want no part off.
Matt King is dealt the blow that his dying wife had been cheating on him before her accident, and his teenage daughter is left to pick up the pieces of a relationship that has been shattered because of said events. What that does is it brings an outside view of how things were before that, making the scenes where they deal with the new developments even more emotional and impacting. The emotions and the decisions to either hold onto the resentment or let go make the film very poignant and bittersweet when it draws to a close.
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash have taken the whirl wind that is life and told a story that allowed for that whirl wind of feelings to be exposed unlike it has been in the past. Sincerity and honesty are present in just about every scene, which relies on the candidness of the actors to portray emotions that usually seem redundant or melodramatic. George Clooney and Shailene Woodley had a very good father-daughter chemistry and it was rewarding to see the relationship between their characters take on a uniqueness of its own.
Very much like other films, as it develops the urgency to make a decision becomes prevalent. Adding that element to a film that tries to bring a balance of humour to the mess of emotions floating around, allows The Descendants to play with a few genre clichés and get away with it. Eventually some of the characters say and do a few things that are visible from a mile away, but given the overall circumstances it seems right to allow that to be their decision.
For a film that is classified as a comedy, the dramatic moments are what keep the flow of the film. For example talking to the children, telling them that their mother will be removed from her life support, adds the next step in the chapter of their lives, which is coming to terms with that and moving on. Another example is the way in which Matt approaches his wife cheating on him; absolutely nothing was funny about him confronting two of her good friends. In fact it was awkward, it was genuine. Matt had an idea of what he was trying to say but failed to get it across without causing more harm than good. What was funny were the small little scenes with the children, and his teenager daughters friend Sid. These scenes kept it from being nothing but a soppy mess of emotions. Humour is the thing that keeps the film grounded.
Certainly worth a viewing, not because it is up for best picture, but because it has so much to offer those who still look for good writing, good acting and a relatively emotional film that tries to end things as happy as possible.