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The Descendants
BLU-RAY disk
03.27.2012 By: Mathew Plale
The Descendants order download
Director:
Alexander Payne

Actors:
George Clooney
Shailene Woodley
Robert Forster

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
After his wife is left comatose, a lawyer (Clooney) struggles to watch over his daughters (Woodley, Amara Miller) and settle on a multi-million dollar land deal.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Matt King (George Clooney) is the backup parent. He’s a lawyer who, like many, spends most of his hours at the office. It works out that way. One afternoon, his wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) gets in a horrible boasting accident and is given no chance of survival by doctors. He becomes the understudy thrown into the lead, and his daughters Alex (Shailene Woodley) and Scottie (Amara Miller) know he’s not fit for any of it.

Alex tells her father that her feud with Elizabeth stemmed from her mother’s affair with a real estate agent (Matthew Lillard). Two friends confirm the affair, and King tracks down his wife’s lover with Alex and her surfer dude friend Sid (Nick Krause) in tow.

The subplot involves a multi-million dollar deal that would see King, who controls the family estate, debating signing over his ancestors’ land. Of course, the deal and the agent are linked, and so the whole situation becomes more complicated.

Alexander Payne’s The Descendants is about a stuck, lost man making thoughtful, true decisions. Matt King is the most human character Clooney has played since Michael Clayton. It is a role and performance that is so much more than running around in Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops, like the ads suggested.

Payne and co-writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who won Oscars for their adaptation of Hawaii native Kau Hart Hemming’s book, try to lighten the mood with a few clever lines and the wasteful addition of the Sid character, but The Descendants calls for so much crying that it’s just mopey.

There are strong, believable performances from Clooney, Woodley, Robert Forster, and even Matthew Lillard, but they can’t completely elevate the material. This is a story with no emotional risks, like there were in Sideways and About Schmidt, which also deals with the sudden death of the protagonist’s wife.

About Schmidt had its heavy-handed moments, but I’m not sure Payne was all that mindful of the little gold man they were giving out in March. With The Descendants, he tries too hard to be serious and ends up making a movie that is both obvious and safe.
THE EXTRAS
Deleted Scenes (5:46): There are two here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. Both are accompanied with a text introduction by Alexander Payne that explains why the scene was cut.

Everybody Loves George (7:27): In this fittingly titled featurette, cast and crew gush over Clooney. Also included are clips and footage of Clooney at work on the film.

Working with Alexander (13:34) is similar to the previous featurette…except here, time is set aside to watch director Payne make an omelet.

The Real Descendants (12:06): Here, John Morgan, president of the Kualoa Ranch, discusses the history of Hawaii’s land.

Hawaiian Style (16:46): This featurette devotes time to the look and feel of both Hawaii and The Descendants. A nice addition to this piece is footage of the blessing put on the production by a native of the state.

Casting (8:11): Payne reflects on the auditions and the cast, noting that only Clooney, Beau Bridges and Robert Forster did not have to go through the process.

Working with Water (10:58) goes into the difficulties of filming on water, including currents, the sun and more.

Waiting for the Light (2:52) is a short montage of the cast and crew on location.

The World Parade - Hawaii (9:55): This silent film compiles footage of Hawaii from generations ago.

A Conversation with George Clooney and Alexander Payne (11:58): The best of the supplements, this piece features the star and his director having a friendly back-and-forth, covering everything from old Hollywood films and ER to The Descendents and the art of acting.

Music Videos

DVD/Digital Copy
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
With The Descendants, Alexander Payne tries so hard to be serious and get the Academy’s attention that the film winds up being mopey and obvious, a drama without risk. Its many fans, though, will find this Blu-ray to be an excellent addition to their shelves, as it features wonderful transfers and supplements that trace the production and capture Hawaii’s role in the story.
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