Alexander Payne's 2011 family dramedy The Descendants takes place in Hawaii, so who better to occupy the film’s soundtrack than some of the region’s most notable musical icons. Payne (Sideways, About Schmidt) has always been one to cast the environment as one of the central characters in his films, and his choice to let island favorites from the likes of Gabby Pahinui, Ray Kane, Keola Beamer, Lena Machado, Sonny Chillingworth, Jeff Peterson, and Rev. Dennis Kamakahi shadow the narrative results in a far more inclusive experience for the audience. Like Portuguese fado, Hawaiian slack key guitar, by its very nature, is soulful, sweet, warm, and a bit sad, a notion that dutifully mirrors that of its protagonist, played by George Clooney, who portrays a father attempting to reconnect with his two daughters after his wife falls into a coma after a boating accident. Highly listenable and extremely likable, it's a soundtrack that feels loved, much like the Italian folk/Louis Prima-heavy soundtrack to Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott's 1996 period comedy-drama Big Night, and as an introduction to traditional Hawaiian music, it’s almost indispensable.
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger