[Editor note: On the heals of last night’s Golden Globe victory for The Descendants we highlight this review from RPR Media.]
There are some basic rules of screenwriting and director Alexander Payne breaks them all in the new George Clooney vehicle The Descendants.
If you’ve ever taken a screenwriting course, you know the golden law of cinema is show don’t tell. This is shattered in the first 15 minutes of the film, which essentially consists of a long George Clooney voice over, filled with exposition, telling us all about the world we are about to (we hope) inhabit.
Another rule is that characters need some sort of motivation or inciting incident to change. This too is broken rather early, when Clooney’s nightmarish daughter (played well by Shailene Woodley) suddenly transforms from the teenager from hell, so bad she makes Lindsay Lohan seem demure– into George’s fun-loving and responsible partner in crime.
A third rule is that movie’s should have a consistent tone. You can’t be Beaches one minute, and Leatherheads the next. But that’s exactly the high wire act The Descendants tries to straddle.
I would like to say that Alexander Payne, the genius, broke all the rules, won, and posted another notch on his indie belt, next to semi-classics like Election, Sideways and About Schmidt. But the result here is an uneven film, watchable but ultimately disjointed and forgettable.
George Clooney plays Matt King, a wealthy Hawaiian, who’s world is closing in on him. His wife has just lapsed into a deep come, following a tragic boating accident. King’s bedside vigil is complicated when he learns his wife was having an affair before her accident, and had planned to leave him. Shaken, King embarks on a quest, with his two daughters in tow, to find this mystery man and confront him.