Decisions and discovery for The Descendants

Writer / director Alexander Payne gives us another superb emotional mix of painful laughs and heart-rending drama in THE DESCENDANTS.

We last journeyed with writer / director Alexander Payne across a gorgeous Napa Valley in 2004, in the company of Miles and Jack in the Oscar-winning Sideways. This time in his new film THE DESCENDANTS, the location’s Hawaii and I wouldn’t be surprised if the tourism figures there go up dramatically as they did for California after Sideways because he cleverly uses this paradise as a backdrop for a tragic / comic story that will have you hooked.

George Clooney, Nick Krause, Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller in The Descendants

George Clooney, Nick Krause, Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller

Honolulu lawyer Matt King – a beautiful, ordinary guy performance from George Clooney – has a pretty perfect life when we first meet him. But before long, we’re watching while his personal life implodes before our eyes. Luckily, he has his two daughters Alexandra and Scottie to help him through this traumatic time, played fantastically by Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller respectively – absolute stars in the making. They berate, cajole and support their dad through finding out that the wife he thought was whiter than white, actually wasn’t and now she’s in a coma from a boating accident, he needs to work out how his, and their lives move forward.

Added to that, Payne always provides a top notch supporting cast and this time we have Beau Bridges as Matt’s faux friendly cousin, Robert Forster as his father in law, Matthew Lillard and Judy Greer a couple his wife knew and best of all, the young but very talented Nick Krause as Alexandra’s close friend Sid. Absolutely brilliant performances all round.

Payne isn’t afraid to show the pain in people’s lives (no pun intended) and what you come away with from his films is actually a better understanding of who you are as a person, seen through the eyes of his protagonists – whether that’s Miles, Warren Schmidt, or Matt King in this case in THE DESCENDANTS – he’s a brilliant and poetic film-maker who’ll hook me to the medium for as long as he’s making movies.