If it were not so blessedly charming, “The Descendants” would be rackingly heartbreaking.
As it is, the movie lets the characters, their relationships with one another, and the story itself develop without compromise. It is a story that portrays the strength of a family forged out of tragedy and distrust.
The movie begins on one tragic level and then expands. Matt (George Clooney) is struggling to deal with the welfare of his wife, who is in a coma after a boating accident. This absentee dad is a well-meaning guy, but simply too busy to accommodate his family.
Now his two daughters are thrust upon him and the story evolves. The 17 year old, Alex, (Shailene Woodley) has been acting out because she knows what Matt does not, that his wife has been having an affair.
What he learns about his wife, himself, his daughters, and his extended family in the course of putting his wife to rest is the crux of this story.
Clooney is wonderful in this role. At times he is clueless, indecisive, almost feckless like any father of two adolescent daughters; other times he is heroically angry and resolute. At all times do you watch and feel his range of emotions for all that is happening around him.
Any good movie is measured in the quality of its supporting cast and this one is no exception. Robert Forster is great as the tough father-in-law, and Nick Krause (Sid) is touching and simply hilarious as Alex’s tag-along friend.
I am not George Clooney, by a long shot. But, I have two daughters about the same age difference as those in “The Descendants,” and the treatment of these two girls rang painfully true. It is a good movie.