Review: Even paradise has problems in The Descendants

In life, we often paint things in black or white. It’s easier. People are good or bad, they’re either stupid or smart, it’s either yes or no. Movies too, reflect this odd thinking we have. The thing is, life isn’t binary. It’s a spectrum, and this is what The Descendants does a great job of showing.

Matt King (George Clooney) is the trustee to a large amount of untouched land in Hawaii. Him and his family, because of law, are trying to figure out what to do with this land. They want to sell it, but to the right person. It’s King’s decision alone, while his family can only offer input to him. His decision changes not only his life, but his all of his relatives and Hawaii as well.

At the same time, King’s wife has been injured in a boating accident and is in a coma. Normally an absentee father, King is forced to figure out a way to help his daughters through an immensely difficult time. Not only that, but King finds out his wife was having an affair.

This is only the beginning of one of the best movies of the year. Director Alexander Payne manages to do something extraordinary. He creates a world. There aren’t many movies where minor characters are given shades and layers to the extent that The Descendants does. No one totally fits into a stereotype, they’re just living breathing people.

Clooney’s character has many tough decisions to make, and Payne shows us how important these decisions are to the people around him. The pressure they mount in him is something we feel. The emotional weight is almost shared with the audience.

This is anchored by Clooney’s best performance to date. Everytime something stacks on top of him, you can feel it. When there’s relief, you can feel it. It’s a very intelligent performance, and he deserves any awards that come his way.

So, should you see this movie? Definitely. The plot is layered and some could say its complex, but it flows. At the end of the day, this movie is about family. It’s about connecting with the ones you love and living with their actions and decisions. And hey, it’s one of the best films of the year.

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