Clooney’s Payne-ful Decisions

George Clooney as Matt King

The Descendants arrived in theaters yesterday – 5 to be exact – and will expand tomorrow to 27 more. Depending on the reception, the movie will continue to expand to markets, maybe even making it possible for my parents in the Midwest to see it if they so desire this holiday awards season.

The newest feature from Alexander Payne (Sideways, Election) follows Matt King (George Clooney) as he discovers his wife was in a boating accident and lies in a coma at the hospital.  Matt, who has always been a part-time father to his two girls, now finds himself a full-time dad while he awaits his wife’s prognosis.

Amidst learning the ropes of raising a pre-teen daughter (Amara Miller) and a teenage hellcat (played superbly by Shailene Woodley from The Secret Life of An American Teenager), Matt must also deal with his cousins’ various pressures to sell or not sell the ancestral family land entrusted in his name.  He then stumbles upon a secret his wife has been keeping from him, throwing his world into further turmoil.  As he tries to hold everything together, Matt must both physically and emotionally make the journeys necessary to come to terms with every decision needed to keep his family and future going.

George Clooney and Shailene Woodley

With a supporting cast including Beau Bridges, Robert Forster, Michael Ontkean, Matthew Lillard, and Judy Greer, Payne combined a cast of newbies, Hawaiian natives, and industry vets to create the world of the King family and recreate the genuine feel of Hawaiian life.

I had the opportunity to hear both Payne and his producer, Jim Burke, discuss the film after a screening a few weeks ago, and they were humbled to hear the audience remarks such as “This is the most authentic portrayal of Hawaii I have seen yet.”  Their goals were to bring the humanity of the story and the authenticity of the book by Kaui Hart Hemmings to life, and they were pleased to hear they have done just that.  Payne is a rare find these days as a quality director creating quality film with impressive performances and heartfelt storytelling.  Clooney no doubt will be touted for an Academy Award nomination as Matt King.  Adapted screenplay should also not be overlooked.  One of these days, we may even see Payne with an Oscar in his hands, especially since he will continue to create films analyzing familial relationships, and he does them very well.  The Descendants is a must see – check it out after you waste spend your big bucks on Happy Feet Two for the kids.


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