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Movie Review: The Descendants

Alternate Title: Good Grief

Story: Director Alexander Payne's films are about the flawed human condition. His style includes dark passages juxtaposed with humor and this latest film, The Descendants fits right into his genre. The film was written by Mr. Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash and based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings.

Unless you have been in a cave somewhere I am sure you have seen the trailer. A very handsome 50 something Dad, looking lost, flummoxed, running, dealing with his kids - generally the trailer plays for laughs. Do not be fooled. This film is about death, grief, family and legacy.

The film jolts you from scenes in a hospital, where the Mrs. lies in a coma to light-hearted vignettes where 10 year old utters profanity. The laughs come and go but the underlying theme is how we handle the crap that life throws our way.

Did the film work for me? With many reservations, I would say - maybe. The film opens with Clooney's narration about Hawaii not being what the picture postcards advertise. It is filled with hardship, stress and all of the other difficulties that the rest of the 49 states have to deal with. But then, for the balance of the film, we only see the very elite of the islands. Each home is more luxurious than the next. The narrator suddenly disappears. Huh?

The family comes from Hawaii royalty and is entrusted with the last remaining parcel of 25,000 acres of pristine land. Should the family sell? This underlying theme is mirrored with the coma patient, an adulterous affair, wayward teenagers, anger, rage and of course, the big kahuna - death.

The acting is terrific across the board but the whole picture is not as cohesiveas it should be. I left the theater without giving the film another thought (other than how good looking George Clooney is).

Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWHNXJ1K4yA

Acting: George Clooney as Matt King was a bit flat line for me. Shailene Woodley as 17 year old Alexandra King was terrific as was the cameo appearance by Beau Bridges as Cousin Hugh. Robert Forster as Scott Thorson was great as was Judy Greer as Julie Speer. Matthew Lillard as sleaze ball Brian Speer was good as was sidekick, Nick Krause as Sid. Little Amara Miller as 10 year old Scottie King was very cute.

Predilection: I like Payne's films and I like to look at George Clooney.

Trivia: Alexander Payne's other films include: Citizen Ruth (1996), one of my favorites, Election (1999), About Schmidt (2002) and Sideways (2004.)

Critters: A goat and cattle.

Food: Ice cream plays a big role.

Sex Spectrum: None

Soundtrack: I cannot remember anything but the annoying Hawaiian music.

Opening Titles: The wife on water skis before the accident.

Visual Art: Hawaii looks pretty and the lavish homes all look like something out of Architectural Digest.

Theater Audience: We were in the secret balcony of my favorite multiplex with just a few others who have discovered the secret. Shhhh!

Weather: Hawaii seems to have perfect weather.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: 0

Drift Factor: I looked at my watch quite a few times. Maybe I was hungry, who knows?

Predictability Level: High

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: No - but it will most likely get a few nods form the Academy.

Big Screen or Rental: Either

Length: Under two hours.