The Descendents

[3.0 stars] The Descendants (2011) on IMDb [Amazon Link]

The director of this movie, Alexander Payne, is known for making arty-but-accessible comedy/dramas (Sideways, About Schmidt, Election). IMDB has this, too, as a comedy/drama, but the actually-funny content is low. It won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, and was nominated for four others (Best Picture, Actor, Director, and Editing).

George Clooney plays Matt King, a man beset with life-changing problems. First, his wife was in a speedboat accident off Honolulu, and is seriously comatose in the hospital. His two daughters deal with this crisis in different ways, both providing Matt with concern.

In addition—and I bet this is a problem you don't have—Matt is the trustee of a large tract of unspoiled oceanside land in Kauai, handed down to him from his ancestors: a Christian missionary married to a Hawaiian princess. The trust is about to bump into the rocky and arcane rule against perpetuities, which may shower Matt and his family with a large fraction of a billion dollars.

Oh, and it turns out Matt's wife was desperately unhappy, having an affair. This causes Matt to manufacture a new problem: discover the identity of his wife's lover. (This works out well for the movie; otherwise, it would mostly involve a lot of sitting around in a hospital room.) Matt drags his daughters along on this adventure.

There's lots of Hawaiian scenery, and a number of colorful characters. Very watchable, but I couldn't get past the essential grimness of Matt's wife.

Last Modified 2012-09-24 4:29 AM EDT