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With his wife, Elizabeth, on life support after a boating accident, Hawaiian land baron Matt King, takes his daughters on a trip from Oahu to Kauai to confront the young real estate broker who was having an affair with Elizabeth before her misfortune. The Descendants is adapted from a novel by the same name. It offers characters and focuses on developing them above all else. However, instead of allowing viewers to develop feelings towards the characters, it feels as if the filmmakers are forcing us to think a certain way about each character. Each role has such a one-sided way of thinking that there isn't much room for our own interpretation. I guess that's Hollywood. The screenplay writers have mixed drama and comedy quite well. I would primarily classify this as a drama, although it has light humor sprinkled throughout. The humor is spot on, although I have some issues with the drama towards the third act. Quite a large portion of the dialogue comes across as cliché and made me feel a bit pulled out of the story. They're lines that everybody would expect from a Hollywood film attempting to make the audience shed some tears. Just like any other film, The Descendants has its ups and downs.
While the script has some problems, the acting is great. I'm not George Clooney's biggest fan, but he does very well as Matt King. He still provides the charm that many moviegoers enjoy from him, but is believable. Shailene Woodley is incredible as Alexandra King. She delivers dynamics very well. Woodley is just as good during the tranquil moments as she is amongst emotional chaos. She deserves the recognition she has been receiving for this role. This is the first time I have seen her in a film, but I would be glad to see her in more upcoming projects. The supporting characters are just fine in the roles, but Clooney and Woodley will be who audiences will be remembering after the credits are done rolling.
The location is meant to be a bit ironic. This disaster occurs in Hawaii. People from all over the world travel there due to vacationers believing that it's paradise. At first, this paradise isn't seen by Matt King. Even the color of The Descendants represents this notion as many of the vibrant colors often found in films taking place in Hawaii have been drained. The tone of the visuals certainly mirrors that of the screenplay.
This character study isn't for everybody. While The Descendants certainly has its moments, I found the film to drag on several occasions. It's a slow paced film, so viewers should be prepared for that. The Hollywood cliché is ever-present as the film never manages to escape it, although the comic relief mixed into the movie works quite well. A little bit of the film could have been cut down in order to move the pacing along a bit faster. The Descendants is for a specific audience and I suppose that this simply wasn't my cup of tea. However, I can appreciate that the acting is marvelous and the script has its moments.