Occasionally a movie is released that you really want to see. For whatever reasons, you just don’t find time to make it to the theater until it is too late. This happens to me about four or five times a year. This is the case with The Descendants. To be truthful, I don’t even remember when it was out and I definitely don’t remember seeing show times for it at the theater. Somehow, I just missed it. Lucky for me, there is cable television.
At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much to The Descendants. It is just a nice little movie with George Clooney set in a beautiful Hawaiian locale. There is a sad story; Clooney’s wife was in a boating accident, is in a coma, and isn’t going to recover. Matt King (Clooney) has to deal with that reality and he has to connect with two daughters, to whom he hasn’t been much of an active parent over the years. A nice little story but nothing special.
Then WHAM!!! A twist. I don’t think I am giving anything away with this. It is part of the given premise of the film. Some may consider it a spoiler but it is actually what the whole film is about – this twist. King finds out as he is preparing for his wife’s death, from his rebellious teen age daughter no less, that his wife had been having an affair prior to her accident. King’s world falls apart. The movie then follows his journey, and that of his girls, as he tries to find the man and bring closure to the situation, for his own piece of mind.
The theme isn’t the most happy, perky story ever told but it is honest and real. There are some lighter moments and some nice humor but not so much as to be inappropriate to the overall mood of the picture. Clooney is at his best – angry, hurt, confused. He begins forming relationships with his daughters though he has little clue on how to do this. He even seeks advice from his daughter’s semi-idiotic boyfriend (or maybe just boy friend). It turns out there is more to the boy, Sid (Nick Krause) than King thinks. Shailene Woodley is terrific as the oldest daughter, Alex, whose maturity surprises her father and helps him through this tough time. There is a side story that is kind of intriguing that ties into the main plot but I will leave some mystery for those who haven’t seen the movie yet.
Sometimes the best movies are those that are just snapshots of the lives of relatively normal people - a snapshot of a crisis in their lives, maybe the only exceptionally interesting time of their lives. This is the human element of films - the dramas that each and every one of us experience in our lives at some point. The fact that the situation, the crises itself is unique, and probably doesn’t resemble specific in our own lives, doesn’t matter. It is the recognition that the people on the screen are dealing with a crises in their lives, just like we all do. That is the connection we make with the movie.
The Descendants is a terrific drama. It won some shiny awards for writing and acting and they were well deserved. There aren’t any car chases and nothing blows up but that was all right. This movie flew by for me. I fell into the story that easily. It is not appropriate for all audiences as there is some adult language and sensitive children could be bothered by the prevailing premise. If you see this film pop up on your favorite cable movie channel, or Net Flix, to yourself a favor and watch it. If you like dramas, you will love this film.
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