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The Descendants
Don Fowler
4 stars
Reviewer's Rating:

(Moving morality play)

George Clooney gives a powerful performance as Matt King, a troubled man faced with crucial major decisions. Matt's wife, Elizabeth, is in a coma as a result of a boating accident.

Matt is involved in a major real estate project that involves selling 250,000 acres of pristine waterfront property held in trust by his family, with him as the sole trustee. His daughters, whom he hasn't paid enough attention to, are out of control. Ten-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller) is angry, rebellious and foul-mouthed. Seventeen year-old Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) is brought home from boarding school, where she has been a major problem.

Together, father and daughters try to cope with the difficult situation of telling friends and relatives that Elizabeth's advance directive allows the doctors to pull the plug when there is no hope. Alexandra tells her father that her mother has been having an affair. Matt becomes obsessed with finding out who the guy is, leading to some very tense (and humorous) situations. What could have been one big soap opera becomes a fascinating morality play, filled with humor, pathos, tension and moral decisions.

Much of the humor revolves around Alexandra's boyfriend (Nick Krause), who appears to have no social graces whatsoever, blurting outrageous comments that often are true.

Matt's obsession leads him to stalk his wife's lover, which results in embarrassing, poignant and humorous situations. What makes the movie so fascinating and unique is how the authors, director and Clooney have been able to successfully meld all of these factors.

Matt has to deal with his rigid father-in-law (Robert Forster), difficult daughters, wife's lover, wife's death and land deal, making him a modern day Job.

Everything comes together (after a turn of events we won't reveal), as Matt must decide whether or not to sell the family land. Most important are his reasons.

Most interesting are not only the beautiful shots of the Hawaii we see in travel promotions, but also the Hawaii experienced by those who were born and live their lives there.

This is a very different movie from what could have been just a soap opera. It will draw you in while making you think, "What would I do if I were Matt King?" and "Did he make the right decisions for the right reasons?"

Rated R, with some foul language coming from the young girls and some sexual references.


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