The Descendants Review

Alexander Payne’s stellar return to filmmaking

Despite returning from an eight year absence Alexander Payne continues in his rich vein of form when it comes to adapting novels. For this touching family drama he revisits the same elements that brought acclaim to previous films About Schmidt (2002) and Sideways (2004).

Based on the novel of the same name, this film is centred on Hawaiian lawyer Matt King and his family as they attempt to cope with a dramatic trauma. The cast control the emotions of Payne’s screenplay magnificently, producing heartfelt performances where, whether by intense outbursts or repressed sobs, each tear is more realistic than the last.

In the lead role Clooney provides one of his finest performances in recent years. He is solely responsible for selling a large amount of family land at the same time as coping with his wife hospitalised on life support following a boating accident, and every grey hair on his head seems to reflect the incredible pressure he is under.

Thankfully the deeply emotional narrative is remedied by the director’s blend of familiar dry humour, successful in his previous releases, with playfully overt jokes largely provided by the young actors Nick Krause and Amara Miller. Payne marks his return by balancing sentiment and comedy and in doing so reignites his acclaim as one of the finest writer directors working today.

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