Friday, December 30, 2011

The Descendants

Alexander Paine is not a prolific filmmaker having made only a handful of films since "Election" in 1999, but every film has been a wonderful examination of the human condition. "The Descendants" is a dramady examining how a family in Hawaii copes with a tragedy and it's consequences. Co-written for the screen and directed by Mr. Paine, he once again delivers a winning script and terrific performances.

While the major plot point may seem tragic, the film is really about so much more. It's themes include love, forgiveness, and acceptance. And while dramatic, it's also filled with much humor. Credit the ensemble cast for an honest and warm portrait of a fractured family finding it's way through life's complications. George Clooney is so natural as the father of two daughters he barely knows, it's his best performance in years disappearing completely into the role. Shailene Woodley co-stars as his seventeen year old daughter, Alexandra and she's a natural talent. Her scenes with Mr. Clooney show great maturity for a young actress. Mary Birdsong plays Scotti, the ten year old daughter, who is a total delight. Nick Krause plays Sid, Alexandra's friend who just may be smarter than he looks and it's also fun to see Robert Forster again, playing Mr. Clooney's cranky father-in-law. Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer, and Beau Bridges round out the terrific cast.

As a location, the islands of Hawaii become another character as Mr. Paine reveals the ordinary lives going on behind the vacation paradise, exemplified by Mr. Clooney's opening monologue. And yet, the beauty of the islands can't be denied in many of the film's scenes.

This film has been out a while and has already received many accolades. It deserves them. It's easily one of the best films of the year.

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