Shailine Woodley, the most surprising aspect of Alexander Payne’s new movie “The Descendants”, reveals herself as a varied and experienced actress. Poor writing riddled Shailine Woodly’s career, but her role alongside of George Clooney allows her to shine when handed a decent script led by good directing.
The movie focuses on Clooney’s character Matt King, a descendant of one of the first white families to own land in Hawaii. King holds the controlling share of his family’s estate, and he is conflicted whether or not he should sell the remaining acres of the land.
In addition, King’s wife remains in a coma after a tragic boating accident. She shows no signs of recovery and her will instructs King to remove her from life support. Alexandra (Woodley), King’s daughter who returns from boarding school to help her sister Scottie cope with her mother’s accident, explains that her mother cheated on him. The numerous burdens imposed on King in such a short time exhaust him. Clooney portrays this emotion well as he decides to track down his wife’s lover. Alexandra demands that she come along, forcing young Scottie to travel as well, creating an adventure for the entire family. The movie creates an incredibly appealing character study of a man in emotional duress and how he manages his stress.
King’s dilemma about his inheritance becomes a personality revealing sub-plot that shows his true character. The main plot of the film develops with King and his daughters and their unique quest. Before the accident, King spent his career as a successful lawyer and a self-described “back up parent”. However, his inheritance allowed him to not work long hours daily. The accident forced him to begin working again, leaving King unprepared to take care of his rebellious daughters. In a state of emotional flux, King expresses his feelings in a fury since his wife cannot explain herself while she remains in a coma. Skilled camera angles display an emotionally mangled King running down a Hawaiian road with Sperrys half-off his feet. Attempting to deliver his anger to a lifeless body, King remains alone.
The mood changes when King is with Alexandra, as he holds smart and engaging conversation. These scenes between King and his daughter deliver amazing acting with themes of emotional attachment and humorous banter between a distressed father and his rebellious daughter. The script produces smart and engaging discussions between characters. All together, the movie manages a good balance between humor and emotion.