‘The Descendants’ Blu-ray Review
Alexander Payne’s The Descendants was widely considered one of the best films of 2011. In a prestigious year, Payne’s comedy-drama received various award nominations and plenty of wins, including two Golden Globes (Best Actor-Drama, Best Picture-Drama) and one Academy Award (Best Adapted Screenplay). Recently, it became available on Blu-ray and DVD.
The film shows one semi-dysfunctional family as they deal with a tragedy. Their mother (Patricia Hastie) falls victim to an unfortunate boating accident that leaves her in a coma. The father, Matt King (George Clooney), suddenly must deal with the tragedy in the wake of a huge land settlement deal which could potentially monetize 25,000 acres of untouched Hawaiian land. Being the soul trustee of the family trust, a lot of pressure is put on him to make the right decision.
His two daughters, 17-year-old wild-child Alex (Shailene Woodley) and the inappropriate 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller), are drawn closer to their father, despite the distance that has grown between them over the years. When Alex informs her father that Elizabeth has been unfaithful to him, the family sets out to find her lover (Matthew Lillard).
The journey is about much more though, as the family tries to come together in time of need and crisis. The multi-layered narrative makes the film rich of “real” moments.
Plot, setting, and performance-wise, this film is worth picking up. It weaves in and out of humor and sadness flawlessly. There are three distinguishable things that jettison the film to the top of critics’ list. Payne’s direction allows the film to seem like a “real” tale – in more ways than one. Yes, the film is actually based on the book of the same name (by Kaui Hart Hemmings), but there are real descendants out there. Although the story may be partially fictionalized, it feels genuine. In the bonus features, the Blu-ray disc offers a look at these real descendants.
The film’s writing is connected, too. Grabbing the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar shows the credibility of the writing. Not only do Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash make the film seem genuine, but they creatively mix in humor, character, and emotion. The dialogue is good enough to warrant multiple viewings of the movie. One of my favorite special features includes a behind-the-scenes look at the writing process. Moviegoers take it for granted, but the process looks very difficult.
Lastly, Clooney’s performance hoists the film’s quality. It’s easy to take his acting ability for granted, but without him, this film wouldn’t be the same. He portrays a confused family and businessman perfectly.
The film’s charmingly poignant story and great 1080p video and 5.1 mastered audio make the purchase worth it. Although it’s disappointing there wasn’t a commentary-track, there are plenty of special features to entertain, including:
Everybody Loves George – A short George Clooney montage that serves as a lovefest for George Clooney, his personality, and his great acting skills.
Working With Alexander – Similar to the George Clooney montage, this one shows a lot of Payne’s personality and how it influences his films. It’s very fun to watch.
A Conversation with George Clooney and Alexander Payne – An upfront and personal conversation with the two stars behind the film. They explain their style, while channeling their inner-cinephile. This was my personal favorite (maybe because they mentioned HBO’s The Wire).
The Real Descendants – As mentioned previously, it follows some real Hawaiian descendants as they deal with their land.
Hawaiian Style – A behind-the-scenes look at how they tried to incorporate Hawaiian culture into the film.
Casting – Another behind-the-scenes look, this time at the casting process. It was both funny and interesting to see how the process works.
Music Videos – “Will I Ever See You Again,” “Honolulu’s Whisper,” and Postcards from Paradise Music Videos.
Waiting for the Light & Working with Water – Two short features highlighting Mother Nature’s restraints on the filming process.
The World Parade-Hawaii – A short silent film that tries to capture Hawaii’s historical heritage.
Deleted Scenes – 2 deleted scenes, but the commentary that precedes them makes it worth it.
There you have it! There are plenty of special features (albeit, short ones) that go along with an already great story. I wouldn’t hesitate picking this up whenever you can!
You can purchase The Descendants on Amazon.