BY MICHELE VAN HESSEN – Kaui Hart Hemmings’ novel The Descendants, set in Hawaii, magnificently captures the struggle of marriage, children and family relationships. Director Alexander Payne (Alexander Constantine Papadopoulos) compliments the book wonderfully with his ability to set the film scenes vividly using Hawaii’s dramatic beauty and uniqueness to depict a sense of loneliness encompassing the main character.  Payne also wrote the screenplay with Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.

Shailene Woodley, Nick Krause and Amara Miller, cast as children struggling to grow-up, are able to maintain the subtlety needed for their characters.  Working with a star like George Clooney could be a difficult task for any young actor, yet all of the young actors in The Descendants get and hold your attention in all of their scenes. They show just enough emotion to make their performances supportive of the main character.

The Descendants is musically scored exclusively with Hawaiian music, created by such masters as Keola Beamer, Sonny Chillingworth, Rev. Dennis Kamakahi, Ray Kane, Lena Machado, Gabby Pahinui, and Jeff Peterson, Director Alexander Payne. It incorporates the soulful music essential to the story as director Payne emphasizes Hawaii’s floral landscapes, tranquil waters and its breathtaking natural beauty.

The Descendants cast local actors for the minor characters throughout the film.   It is often simultaneously superbly comedic and dramatic, which lead actor George Clooney masters.  His performance as well as director/writer Alexander Payne’a endeavors and even the film itself is Oscar worthy.

Still of George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Nick Krause and Amara Miller in The Descendants © 2011 – Fox Searchlight Pictures.  review by Michele Van Hessen

The film opens in theaters on November 16.

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