The Descendants - My Review
How would you rate the movie?
I have seen a great many movies over the years and was at one time a Film Festival enthusiast. I guess you could say that I have become rather jaded because I am increasingly critical of movies made over the last few decades. I have also become tired of remakes when earlier movies captured a timeless quality often not achieved today, what with over-the-top special effects and futuristic films which are crowded with action and words and generally filled with doom and gloom, fail to deliver anything with depth or insight.
It is with sheer delight, therefore, that I viewed “The Descendants,” a film from Alexander Payne. This movie was nominated for five Academy Awards and I was convinced that George Clooney would win the Best Actor category, but I believe he was totally overlooked when he gave what I believe is a stunning performance, yet did not win. This movie did, however, win an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay; nevertheless, I still feel that Clooney should have walked away with an Oscar for his performance and that this film should also have garnered awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Soundtrack.
Watch it again and again...
There are not too many films I am interested in viewing multiple times, but this movie is definitely one of them. I was immediately seduced by the beautiful archipelago of Hawaiian Islands which lie in the middle of the great Pacific Ocean! I had previously only been aware of Hawaii as a holiday destination and this film gave me a far greater insight into this island chain. The magnificence of this most recent American state is showcased by Payne’s laid back film direction and wistfully beautiful images punctuated by mellifluous and soulful Hawaiian music with which I was previously totally unfamiliar!
Without giving too much away, I want to write about the impact this story had on me emotionally. The head of the family, Matt King, finds his life, and that of his two daughters, in turmoil, due to a boating accident that leaves his wife in a coma. Additionally, Matt is the trustee to 25000 acres of pristine undeveloped Polynesian land that was left to the family and which the majority of the family would like to see sold for prime beachfront development, thereby making millions. While Matt struggles to reach a decision whether to sell the family’s land which had been handed down from Hawaiian royalty and Missionaries in their family, he tries to figure out how to do the right thing not only for his family, but for all Hawaiians in the state. As his wife, Elizabeth’s life hangs in the balance, Matt and his daughters grapple with these life-changing events.
Great performances from the cast
I was greatly impressed with the performance of Shailene Woodley as Matt’s rebellious 17-year-old daughter, Alexandra, and Amara Miller as Scottie, the 10-year-old daughter who acts out. Their emotional honesty was impressive and they were both sensitive and spunky and gave excellent performances. Nick Krause, who plays the role of Alexandra’s friend, Sid, was unexpectedly delightful.
Clooney handled the role of Matt gently and expertly. As the decision maker and head of the household, thrust into a role he is largely unfamiliar with, and experiencing his own loss and anguish, I was impressed by the fact that his actions were largely selfless as he strived to do the right thing despite his own emotional upheaval. Matt never lashes out and it was a touching moment when his daughters and Sid jump to his defense when he is verbally harangued by Elizabeth’s grief-stricken but crusty father.
Integrity strengthens relationships
Matt handles a variety of difficult situations with dignity and restraint and retains an integrity which is all too often not found today. The specter of betrayal and the concept of honor emerge as these characters share this journey of troubled and broken relationships, through choices that need to be made and bonds that are strengthened and knit back together during the process.
With images of the turquoise ocean in its sparkling clarity, the balmy tropical breezes blowing and the gentle guitar and haunting vocals playing in the background, this story seduces from beginning to end. For me, it showcased how it is possible for people to express their feelings in a dignified manner and to eventually reach a stage of acceptance, thereby mending relationships by doing so and being able to begin the process of healing.