I was tricked into seeing this movie. It was a dark and stormy night and my friend suggested the cinema. While my heart was set on The Muppet Movie, after watching the trailer for The Descendants, I could not say no to some late night George Clooney.
The Descendants is a movie about loss, love and grief. After a tragic accident, Matt King (George Clooney) tries to bring his family together. He has to rally his distant relations to agree on a land development deal, and he has to help his daughters face the loss of their mother.
Along the backdrop of beautiful Hawai’i, this funny, painful, gut-wrenching movie explores the dynamics of family, fidelity and how to finally tell someone how you feel. Ugh. I don’t think I am quite doing it justice, but that is because I do not want to give everything away. Secrets, lies, deception, crying, love, family, death, land barons. Intrigued, yet?
As with other Alexander Payne films (Election, Citizen Ruth, Sideways, About Schmidt), the back story builds throughout the movie and you become completely hooked. This small snapshot of an American family is enthralling, beautiful and made me cry so much I got a little dehydrated.
Not every movie is perfect. I will say that the use of superfluous voice-overs ruined a lot of scenes for me. While often a necessary plot device, its overuse in this movie came across as lazy. From the opening scenes to the end of the movie, it was more audiobook than movie.
The actresses who played the daughters were new to me, but I have a feeling they will not stay strangers for long. Shailene Woodley (who after a quick IMDb search shows that she has actually been in dozens of TV shows) felt a little flat playing the wild teenager Alexandria, but she was still effective. Amara Miller portrayed the youngest daughter, Scottie, and was deeply endearing showing how hard it is for children to understand and cope with loss. The scene-stealer was Nick Krause who tags along with the family. At first he seems like a bumbling surfer idiot, but as the story progresses, he becomes a confidant to the family and his tragic past is revealed.
I highly recommend this movie. It is equal parts feel-bad/feel-good. the Descendants is mostly well-crafted, well-acted and well-thought out. George Clooney is a beautiful disaster in this film – he does a fantastic job of playing a man who is trying to be the anchor to everyone around him when his life is spinning out of control.
Just go see this movie. I promise you, it is money well spent.