The Descendants, Blu-ray (2011/12)
Cast: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Beau Bridges
Director: Alexander Payne
Studio: Fox Searchlight [3/13/12] (2 discs – Blu-ray/DVD & Digital copy)
Video: 2.40:1 anamorphic/enhanced 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French & Spanish DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Extras: “Everybody Loves George,” Working with Alexander, The Real Descendants, Hawaiian Style, Casting, Working with Water, “Will I Ever See You Again?” music video, “Postcards from Paradise” music video, “Honolulu’s Whisper” music video, “Waiting for the Light,” “The World Parade – Hawaii” silent film, Conversation with George Clooney and Alexander Payne, Deleted scenes, digital copy
Length: 115 minutes
Oscar-winning director Payne has moved his fascinating characters from CA wine country (Sideways) to Hawaii and a quite serious (though peppered with comedy) story about a real estate attorney in the midst of selling a large and valuable property his family owns on Kauai to a resort developer. His wife is in a coma after a water-skiing accident and he has his hands full with suddenly having to deal with two resentful daughters. (His marriage was troubled prior to the accident.) The older one tells him she was mad at her mother because of her mother’s affair with another man, which Matt King (Clooney) didn’t know. Then Matt learns that his wife won’t recover and according to her directives they must turn off her life support. He also must deal with his wife’s nasty and accusing father. Matt has to bring together relatives and friends to tell them the terminal situation and to say goodbye.
The major humor comes with Matt struggling to learn who the lover was and to confront him to find out what his wife saw in him. It turns out he is a real estate dealer who will benefit greatly from the sale of the family property. Added to the mix of Matt and his daughters who go to another island to look for the former lover is the older daughter’s rather dense boyfriend. All the actors are perfect in their roles, though it does take a bit of an effort to see a shambling schlemiel in those Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops when you know it’s George Clooney in there. Also, the family inherited the valuable property due to a grandparent being native Hawaiian royalty, yet none in the family show the least bit native appearance — especially Clooney. The musical score isn’t as annoying as I had thought it might be, because rather than kitschy Hawaiian music it is slack-key guitar, though with Hawaiian vocals.
If any recording is essential to the genre, this is it.