• Far from heaven : a review of Alexander Payne’s The Descendants


    Living in Hawaii, Matt King (George Clooney) is the descendant of  a rich American businessman who married a Polynesian princess. Matt, as head of the family, has to decide whether to sell the land the Kings inherited from their ancestors or not. At the same time, his wife is brought to the hospital in a coma after a boating accident. Thus, Matt is suddenly forced to take care of his two daughters, Scottie, 10, and Alex, 17, whom he previously had little to do with…

     The story is set in Hawaii and this is no accident. Director Alexander Payne uses the usual clichés we all have on this supposedly idyllic place to underline the emotional hardship the characters have to face. « I think paradise can go fuck itself » Matt King remarks in the film’s opening. The whole story could be all sentimental and melodramatic but Payne’s brilliant idea is to mix comedy and satire, drama and moral dilemna, like waves on the ocean come and go. George Clooney plays to perfection the part of the middle-aged man, slightly ridiculous in his floral shirts and flip-flops, yet deeply moving. Both hilarious and heartbreaking, Clooney plays the part of a lifetime. He is tremendous and would well deserve an Oscar. Meanwhile, supporting actors are all great: Shailene Woodley beautifully plays the rebellious teenager, Robert Forster is a memorable bad-tempered father-in-law and Beau Bridges brings depth and ambiguity to Matt’s cousin, Hugh. The film, however, is not mainstream and some may find it boring and dull since there is no suspense here. I loved it and I think you should give it a try!

     Violaine Azema

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