MOVIE REVIEW: The Descendants

“If you think being in Hawaii all of the time is paradise, then you’re an idiot; no one’s immune to heartbreak and illness.”

So now it begins. The Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe nominations came out last week, and I usually look at the film choices that I’ve already missed (e.g., Ides of March, Moneyball), ones that haven’t made it here yet (War Horse, The Artist, et al.), and what’s currently available. Having three other choices (Hugo, My Week with Marilyn, Melancholia), I opted to see the film set in Hawaii at the Spectrum Theatre Sunday, while the Wife and Daughter went to a children’s dance recital.

The descendants of the title are a bunch of cousins some generations removed from Hawaiian royalty and missionaries, who own this pristine coastal property, but that, by law, they must sell. Matt King (George Clooney) is wrestling with that decision, while, at the same time dealing with his wife’s boating accident and his sometimes strained relationship with his two daughters. Directed and co-written by Alexander Payne, who created the well-received films Sideways, About Schmidt, and Election, the movie is a sad and occasionally funny tale of betrayal, loss, and reunion.

I was initially annoyed by the seemingly endless voiceover at the beginning of the film; I guess I like my story shown, not told. But the information contained therein 1) was important to the plot and 2) made me think. There was a specific line, which I don’t remember exactly, but it was something like, “If you think being in Hawaii all of the time is paradise, then you’re an idiot; no one’s immune to heartbreak and illness.”

Ultimately, I bought into the characters in the film, stopped thinking, “Hey, there’s George Clooney.” Figuring out fatherhood CAN be difficult. There were a number of strong performances, including Beau Bridges as a cousin, Robert Forster as Matt’s father-in-law, Judy Greer as a woman with something in common with Matt, and Shailene Woodley as the elder daughter. If the movie was a tad pat at times, it may have been the fault of the generally appealing screenplay, rather than the performers.

Still, I was moved by the story – quite a bit, truth be told – and would definitely recommend it.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

One thought on “MOVIE REVIEW: The Descendants”

  1. Roger, great review. I, too, recommend this film to friends. It’s nice to see Clooney taking roles that are not action or pretty-boy, but human, honest, flawed people. The kids were all great (including the older daughter’s boyfriend), and Clooney’s mad dash to the neighbor’s house was endearingly awkward. He’s getting Cary Grant’s career – greying well, still appealing, and he can do comedy or drama. I admire him for this, as well as Section Eight Productions. He’s coming into his own.

    Thanks! Peace, Amy

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