Matt King (George Clooney) has every thing he would ever want: a fancy house in Hawaii, a membership to an upscale country club, all the money he will ever need and the rights to a serene tract of land that is worth a fortune.
Everything he would ever need â€“ and yet all of his possessions could not prepare him for the impending tragedies primed to strike his family.
The family is as dysfunctional as any other, and its weakest points are exposed when a serious boating injury lands Mattâ€™s wife, Elizabeth, in a coma.
This is where Matt has to graduate from being the â€œbackup parentâ€ in order to build a foundation for the lives of his two daughters, Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and Scottie (Amara Miller).
This is compounded by his pressing decision of what to do with that plot of land about which seemingly everyone on the island knows and has an opinion.
Matt inherited the rights to the land from his royal ancestors, and he has the power to either keep the land in his family for future generations or sell it to make way for a high- end resort that would make Matt and his cousins extremely rich.
Matt doesnâ€™t need the money, but he wants to appease the wishes of the rest of his family.
To make things worse, while Elizabeth is in the hospital, Matt is told that his wife was cheating on him.
These overwhelming events would each be taxing enough on their own, but they all happen to Matt at once, providing Clooney with just the right material for one of the most uninhibited performances of his career.
This could be said about the entirety of the cast, especially Alexandra and her spacey boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause), who develop from nothing more than clichÃ© â€œstonerâ€ teenagers into incredibly complex characters.
â€œThe Descendantsâ€ has Oscar gold written all over it, especially with the pedigree of director Alexander Payne, who previously received award attention for â€œSidewaysâ€ and â€œElection.â€
And with the ever-growing mainstream appeal of the Academy, it doesnâ€™t hurt that â€œThe Descendantsâ€ is one of the most accessible and noteworthy movies of the year.
Movie reviewer Jason Berlinberg can be reached at email@example.com.
Coming next… â€œHugoâ€
â€œHugoâ€ is an animated film directed by Martin Scorsese about a 12-year-old boy named Hugo who lives in the walls of a train station in Paris.