I really enjoyed The Descendants. It’s from Alexander Payne, who’s written and directed several good (and challenging) movies over the years, like Citizen Ruth, About Schmidt and Sideways. This is one where casual moviegoers will probably come for the stunning Hawaiian scenery and George Clooney and stay for the movie’s surprising depth, not to mention great performances all around.
Clooney plays Matt King, a man facing two huge turning points at the same time. On the business front, he is the sole trustee of an astonishing parcel of virgin Hawaiian land: the closest thing to paradise on earth. Due to legal reasons, his family can no longer hold on to the land in perpetuity, so the trust must be dissolved. The sale will make Matt and his entire extended family rich, but who should get the land? As a man long disconnected from his feelings, Matt is struggling to decide if he can really sign away that untouched expanse to become another golf course for the world’s elite.
On the home front, things are dire. Matt’s semi-estranged wife Elizabeth has suffered a catastrophic head injury. With Elizabeth in a swiftly deteriorating vegetative state, Matt can no long play absentee father. His troubled daughters need him. And he spends the movie trying to discover what he needs, and he feels, as he begins to recreate his life.