There’s a scene in The Descendants where George Clooney’s Matt King runs to a neighbor’s home, which is supposed to be funny but only serves to show that he is miscast in the role of Matt King, a husband and father of two who has just found out his comatose wife was having an affair. The problem with the scene is that I can see George Clooney acting; straining to run the way he thinks a middle-aged, repressed man would who is suddenly experiencing a moment of spontaneous emotion.

When it comes to George Clooney, I’m in that minor camp of women who doesn’t get why the other 95% of women swoon over him. Which means that when I watch a Clooney film, I judge him strictly on the acting and this time he falls short. There are times when I’ve really enjoyed his work and believed his performance as in Syriana but this isn’t one of them.

The exact opposite is the case with Shailene Woodley, who portrays Matt’s teenage daughter, Alexandra and Amara Miller as his younger daughter, Scottie. They both give natural, seamless performances as kids dealing with the impending loss of their mother.

Matt learns of his wife, Elizabeth’s cheating from Alexandra, who loves her mother yet hates her for what she’s done to her father and their family.  The news that Elizabeth will not recover from her injuries prompts Matt to take off with his daughters in search of her lover. But, the reality is that he’s searching for himself.

The movie has received tons of praise and I loved director Alexander Payne’s 2004 film, Sideways so I went in with high expectations. Instead, my sister and I walked out of the theater after the movie and we both went, “huh.” We instinctively had the same reaction; the feeling that something was missing. I couldn’t immediately put my finger on what that elusive missing ingredient could be. Then it hit me that what is lacking is passion.

The Descendants is a good movie that has both touching and funny moments but it doesn’t quite gel into a story that fully and completely grabs my heart. As a viewer, it doesn’t matter how well written, well acted, or intelligent a movie is if it doesn’t ultimately connect with me on an emotional level and The Descendants never fully does.

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