The Descendants is about George Clooney's character, Matt, grappling with the decision to sell some prime real estate in Hawaii for several hundred million dollars versus the sentimental attachment that he and his family (well, some of them) have for the place. Except it isn't.
The Descendants is about George Clooney's character, Matt, finding out, as his wife lies terminally injured in a hospital bed, that she has been cheating on him, and follows his journey as grief mixes with anger and how the quantities of both elements change. Except it isn't.
The Descendants is about George Clooney's character, Matt, struggling to reconnect with his wayward daughters, the family crisis of his wife's accident threatening to tear them apart but, as with most heart-warming stories of this ilk, bringing them closer together.
Yes, there is a lot going on in the Descendants, and it plays out slowly, with an occasionally irritating ukulele soundtrack, and in some incredibly beautiful tropical surroundings. It is therefore not that surprising that Clooney has been up for a few award nominations, as he has a lot to do, and there aren't any other major characters to compete with for screen time.
That said, the brief appearance of Robert Forster, as Matt's father in law, is a scene stealing one, especially in his interactions with youngster Sid. And seeing Mathew Lillard in a serious role (and doing pretty well in it too) was a bit jarring considering I always seem him as a fairly Shaggy kind of guy.
Things we learn in this film: planes run to a bus-like timetable around the different islands of the group; if you have wayward kids and you live in Honolulu, it is possible to get them out of your hair by putting them on a different land mass; most locals do wear Hawaiian shirts; George Clooney can run - kind of.
Overall, it is a really engaging film. I read a review afterwards which did question what the "lesson" was that this was meant to impart, and I had to agree that I wasn't entirely sure what it was. But that didn't really matter - the film has a lot of heart even if it doesn't have a huge amount going on upstairs. A bit like Sid really.
Verdict: The Descendants is a talky film made to Pacific time, and Clooney's performance carries the film through to its slow, relaxed and not altogether resolved conclusion. 8 Leis out of 10.