The Descendants

I feel like I’ve had a treat of a movie weekend, and if anything, we saved the best til last, wrapping up with Alexander Payne’s quite, quite brilliant The Descendants. George Clooney – just on top form – is Matt King, an overworked lawyer and descendant of one of the 1860 missionaries who won vast tracts of land from the Hawaiians. King has been neglecting his family whilst negotiating a massive land-deal for a huge slab of coastal land over which he is the only trustee. In the middle of the negotiations, his wayward wife is injured in a boating accident, and he’s forced to round up his daughters and try to keep the family in one piece as his own life collapses around him.

It’s – I’ll say it again – a brilliant film, the kind of film that sits with you afterwards, so well is it made, so honest are the emotions, so true the performances. It’s neither mawkish nor maudlin, and the gentle re-connection between George and his daughters (the eldest is fantastic) is just marvellous. It’s kind of a perfect film. Hawaii is front and centre too – it’s history, its characters, its magnificent landscapes. (hat tip to Jerry Garrett’s blog on finding the real-life bay Matt King’s trying to sell.) Fantastic too is the use of Hawaiian music throughout – Payne skipped an orchestral score altogether and illuminated the script instead with recordings of some of the best Hawaiian artists. It’s an aural treat.