"Truthful, raw and messy", The Descendants scoops at Golden Globes

"Quietly anguished" tale adapted from debut novel takes two Golden Globes

The Descendants has bagged Best Motion Picture Drama at the Golden Globes, with the Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama gong going to leading actor George Clooney.

The film is based on native Hawaiian Kaui Hart Hemmings' debut novel, which sees its middle-aged protagonist try to build relationships with his family and find some sense of peace in the face of tragedy and betrayal.

George Clooney stars as Matt King, a Honalulu-based land owner whose wife is involved in a boating accident. As she lies in a coma, absent father Matt is forced to fend for himself and his two daughters, mischievous 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller) and his troubled 17-year-old, Alexandra (Shailene Woodley), who he finds he barely knows.

While desperately struggling to control his daughters, Matt discovers that his wife was having an affair at the time of her accident and, deciding to give his wife’s lover the chance to say a final goodbye, the family embark on a bizarre journey to find the man their mother loved.

At a press conference for the film, Shailene Woodley, who plays Alexandra, said the storyline was "very truthful, raw and messy" in that "it didn’t cover up the things that most American films cover up", while director Alexander Payne described Hemmings’ plot as a "quietly dramatic, quietly anguished human story".

Payne said he was initially drawn to Hemmings’ novel because of the relationship between Matt and his eldest daughter. While the film sees Alexandra grow, Payne also called the film "a coming-of-age story for a 50-year-old man". He was also intrigued by the idea of "love when it’s difficult".

With its heavy themes and dark premise, the story seems an unlikely choice for the director who once claimed to be scared of straight drama. "But I didn’t feel it making this film," said Payne in an interview with the Telegraph. "Maybe because I treated this drama as though I were a comedy director, and if there was an opportunity for laughs without undercutting the drama, I would take it."

After their success of the Golden Globes, there are already Oscar rumours. When asked what he thought of them, Payne said, "high hopes and low expectations, that’s the only way to live. That way you’re never disappointed."

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings is published by Vintage.



Picture credits:  BFI & writer/director Alexander Payne, Shailene Woodley and George Clooney at the Los Angeles premiere (Eric Charbonneau/WireImage)