The Descendants

The Descendants(R)
A Film Critique
By Sean Cohen

February 7, 2012   [ 1 ]

In my opinion, one of the year’s best Oscar nominated films is   “The Descendants” (2011). It’s a very humanistic comedy/drama based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, and adapted for the screen by writer/director Alexander Payne. Some might say it has more drama than comedy, due to the serious topic of death by euthanasia at the center of the storyline. However, since Roger Ebert says in his review- “it has a happy ending: therefore, technically it’s a comedy”, I guess I’ll defer to his cinematic expertise for that insight, although I’m still pretty sure it’s an unusual hybrid of both styles. (Ebert, 2011)
Next, comes the plot summary. George Clooney plays Matt King, a somewhat frugal real estate attorney, who just so happens to be a descendant of Hawaiian royalty and the beneficiary of 25,000 acres of pristine, undeveloped land in Kauai. However, instead of cashing in on his inheritance he prefers to live solely off the income of his job. In that way he figures he’ll have something left in later years to pass on. You see, King and his extended family made up of mostly cousins have kept a trust overseeing this land and in seven short years, new laws will ensure that the trust will end, thereby- transferring the property rights to the state. Meanwhile, a boating accident has rendered Matt’s neglected wife Elizabeth in a comatose state, which is sadly discovered later to be a terminal condition. Knowing that he is in emotional limbo being that the wife’s will to be euthanized in this situation, must be carried out, Matt becomes heavily burdened with the tasks at hand. For one thing this difficult news must be shared with his two growing daughters, 10 year Scottie (Amara Miller)), and 17 year old Alexandra (Shailene Woodley), whom are each leading very different lives apart from one another. As the story unfolds it exposes challenging moral and ethical dilemmas as shocking new details...