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Descendants, The (DQ)


Stars: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Beau Bridges, Matthew Lillard, Nick Krause, Judy Greer

Director: Alexander Payne

Clooney gives probably his most fully-rounded portrayal to date in this acceptable, though by no means outstanding portrait of grief and regret.

The one-time ER star who developed into one of Hollywood's major players plays Matt King, descendant of a distinguished Hawaiian family whose members own a considerable acreage of land that could earn them a fortune of they sell. For reasons I didn't quite follow, they have to make up their minds within the next seven years.

Matt is the key figure in all this, but, as he agonises over a decision, his wife is badly injured in a skiing accident, and lies at death's door. With enough trouble coping with Scotty, an increasingly stroppy 10-year-old (Amara Miller), Matt now has to fetch home his other (17-year-old) daughter Alex (Woodley) who, with drink and drug problems, is probably about to be expelled from her expensive school anyway.

Even worse, Matt discovers that his wife was having an affair and wanted a divorce. With his daughters and Alex's cocky boyfriend (Krause) in tow, he tracks the - married - lover (Lillard) down and pursues him to his holiday destination (another Hawaiiian island), where edgy confrontations ensue.

A bit slow and stagy at times, the film does have some perceptive dialogue - 'You give your children enough money to do something' advises Matt's wife's father (Robert Forster) 'but not enough to do nothing' - and praiseworthy performances. Neither of the girls, in particular, could be better, although, despite all her character's bad language, Woodley just comes across as too fresh and nice to be as out-of-hand as all that.

David Quinlan

USA 2011. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox (Fox Searchlight). Colour by deluxe/FotoKem.
115 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 22 Jan 2012