The Descendants Blu-ray Review: A Dynamic Drama from Alexander Payne

Based on the debut novel of Hawaiian born writer Kaui Hart Hemmings, The Descendants stars the always-great George Clooney as Matt King, a lawyer in Honolulu whose everyday, ordinary existence comes to a crashing halt when his wife falls into a coma following a motorboat accident. A self-described “back-up” parent, Matt now finds himself having to take care of his rebellious ten-year-old daughter, Scottie (Amara Miller) — an act he is completely unprepared for, as he is in the midst of a land deal with a major developer.

The land in question — 25,000 acres of virgin Hawaiian land — has been in the family for generations, so the “timing” of his wife’s incapacitation couldn’t be worse. But then, isn’t that how fate works most of the time? And so, poor Matt goes on a road trip to pull his other unruly daughter, 17-year-old Alex (Shailene Woodley), out of boarding school so he can at least figure out from her how he should be taking care of Scottie. During that time, the long-estranged father is able to at last connect with his girls — particularly Alex, who drops a bombshell of secrets on him about her mother.

There isn’t much I can say about The Descendants without giving away any major plot points. I am at liberty to tell you, however, that The Descendants is a damn fine drama — one that rightfully earned the Oscar it won at the 84th Academy Award (Best Adapted Screenplay), as well as the 80-some-odd other wins and/or nominations it has received from various other award ceremonies. Clooney and his onscreen daughters (particularly Miss Woodley) are dynamic in this emotional production from screenwriter/director Alexander Payne (Sideways).

Also appearing in this dynamic movie are Nick Krause as Alex’s boyfriend, Robert Forster as the incapacitated Mrs. King’s angry father, and Beau Bridges as Cousin Hugh, with Matthew Lillard and Judy Speer turning in minor (but nonetheless pivotal) parts.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment brings us The Descendants on Blu-ray in a stellar video presentation that shows off the natural beauties of the Hawaiian landscape, and the disc’s 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless soundtrack delivers dialogue, sound effects, and the many classical Hawaiian melodies woven throughout the film’s tapestry admirably.

In terms of bonus materials, The Descendants includes several featurettes that range from behind-the-scenes stuff and interviews with Clooney and Payne, to shooting locales and factual tidbits. There are also a couple of music videos (I hope you like ukulele music, by the way) and a theatrical trailer for this and other Fox releases.

Highly recommended.

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Luigi Bastardo

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