Search

Review: The Descendants

09:00 27 January 2012

The Descendants

The Descendants

Archant

I’m guessing The Da Vinci Code doesn’t figure high on Alexander (About Schmidt, Sideways) Payne’s reading list. Since Election he has made his way with adaptations of well-regarded but little known American novels where nothing much happens.

Novels big on characterisation rather than action – novels basically that have no place being turned into films.

He has the happy knack of making real films in the guise of Oscar pleasers.

His latest is taken from the novel by Hawaiian Kaui Hart Hemmings. I don’t know if it has any claim towards being The Great Hawaiian novel, but as it doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, probably not.

The Descendants is a rather conventional tale of a family reconnecting after a tragedy, the kind of thing that might make for a standard trite star vehicle.

After a boating accident leaves his wife in a coma, lawyer Matt King (George Clooney) has to reconnect with his two daughters, and deal with revelations about his relationships.

He is also the sole trustee of valuable real estate, left to his family by his ancestors more than 100 years before, but which they are now legally obliged to sell – a sale which his many, less affluent, relatives are eagerly awaiting.

Payne comes across as a no thrills director. He’s not above using first person narration to ease us into the story and characters, and doesn’t use any showy gestures to further engage, placing his trust in the performers.

He adds substance to slight tales without weighing them down. He’s good with actors, and good with stars too – he can get them to open up and reveal vulnerabilities without sacrificing the qualities audiences enjoy.

That said, I suspect that the character of King is meant to be a slightly more ambiguous than here. Great as he is in the role, casting Clooney does rather wave away any objections anyone might have about King’s behaviour.

Whenever someone suggests that maybe he was a little emotionally distant or a bit of a skinflint you instinctively feel indignant on his behalf – you can’t say that, that’s George Clooney.

THE DESCENDANTS (15)

Director: Alexander Payne

Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Judy Greer, Beau Bridges and Robert Forster

Length: 115 mins

****

0 comments

Other Diss events

Friday, November 21, 2014
The Trench which is being staged at Old Buckenham Airfield

The Trench, inspired by the true-life story of the men who tunnelled in the First World War, gets a special staging at Old Buckenham Airfield, rock‘n’roll stalwart Joe Brown returns, Luke Wright hosts another Stand-Up Poetry Club, Foggy, Clegg and Compo come to the stage in Last of the Summer Wine, three artists are featured in exhibition Silks, Sable & Silva. SIMON PARKIN picks six cultural highlights not to miss this weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2014
Joan Armatrading who is performing solo at Norwich's St Andrew's Hall

After 42 years of live performing, Joan Armatrading final major tour sees her performing solo for the first time, there is comedy from Shappi Khorsandi, punk poet John Cooper Clarke, magic from Paul Daniels, a touring production of Julius Caesar while the Octagon Concert Series celebrates 30 years. SIMON PARKIN picks six cultural highlights not to miss this weekend.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Turn of the Screw performed by Glyndebourne Opera. Image: Alastair Muir

Glyndebourne on Tour bring three operas Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, Del Amitri frontman Justin Currie returns solo, Crude Apache celebrate their anniversary with a special Macbeth, Maggi Hambling exhibits works inspired by the North Sea and a touring production of Julius Caesar starts its tour. SIMON PARKIN picks six cultural highlights not to miss this week.

Most Read

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 7°C

min temp: 1°C

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Diss Mercury e-edition today E-edition