Just saw an outstanding movie, The Descendants, starring George Clooney (Up In the Air, O Brother Where Art Thou?), Shailene Woodley (TV roles on CSI, My Name is Earl), Amara Miller (first time on big screen), Nick Krause (How to Eat Fried Worms, The Garage), Patricia Hastie (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Princess Kaiulani), Beau Bridges (Fabulous Baker Boys, Stargate SG1), Matthew Lillard (Scooby-Doo, She’s All That), Judy Greer (Love and Other Drugs, What Women Want), and Robert Forster (Mulholland Drive, Me Myself and Irene).
This is a story about a land baron (Clooney) in Hawaii whose wife (Hastie, playing a difficult part-on life support through the movie) is injured in a boating accident. While grieving and not sure what to do, George’s 17 year old daughter Shailene tells him his wife was cheating on him. His 10 year old daughter is having some behavior problems. OK, she has turned into a little hurricane, using foul language, texting nasty comments, really stirring it up. All this is occurring while George, as the trustee in a huge land deal is trying to decide what to do with 25,000 acres that have been in their family for generations. He has lots of family close by in Hawaii, and they are all counting on becoming millionaires. Should they sell to a Hawaiian group, or a Chicago group? Tough decision and not any easier considering the mess George’s life is in right now.
So Patricia Hastie has no speaking parts, she is lying in a hospital bed the entire movie. But she is the main focus, having cheated on George. The guy she cheated with is Matthew, from Scooby-Doo fame. You can almost hear him say “who’s your best buddy?” to Scooby. With his daughter’s help, George tracks him down to Kauai, where he is staying with his wife and family. His wife is played by Judy Greer, she does well. About the 17 year old daughter. She is in a private school, George picks her up to bring her home to say good-by to mom. Turns out she is a bit of a party animal, they find her out on the grounds of the school late at night, really stewed. She has anger issues with her mom, it is complicated. By the way, you will be amazed at how much emotion she puts into the character. When you see her cry underwater, you will know why she got the part.
George is excellent as a disconnected father and husband, a lawyer who knows his way around a contract but not a family. The 10 year old daughter, Amara is great as a rebellious young girl, has a mouth on her for sure. The older daughter wants to bring a friend along, Sid, played really well by Nick Krause, he lends a bit of comic relief to a depressing situation. George’s father-in-law is Robert Forster, he plays all kinds of military types in movies and TV. Here he plays a father in torment, trying to make sense of his daughter on life support. He has other issues of his own, his wife of decades has Alzheimer’s, doesn’t recognize anyone. He blames George in some ways, if he had bought her a boat of her own, she may have not been in the accident. You see where this is going.
George has a huge family; Beau Bridges plays a cousin who owns a restaurant on Kauai. We have actually been to that restaurant in that shopping area; it was fun to see places we had been. We have been to Princeville, stayed in a condo on the golf course they drive by to the hotel, now a St. Regis.
Lots of conflict coming from all directions. George decides to confront Matthew face-to-face, it is a turning point in the movie. We see him struggle with the land decision, family issues, and his own sense of continuity with his wife on life support. I was concerned that the movie would be a downer, but it really isn’t. There is a great message here, we see people going through life in all it’s gory details. We take encouragement from the fact that everyone faces issues, no matter your net worth. On another note, we go to Hawaii every year, just spent a week over there between Christmas and New Years. We have good friends who moved there 6 years ago. They were involved in developing land on Kauai, actually it looked like the same section of land that is in the movie. We turned off the main highway, went up a dirt road, it was exactly the same!
The land had been in the same family for generations, same set-up. It was accurate as to how important the family is in the movie, which makes George’s dilemma even more critical to the movie. When his daughter tells him of his wife’s infidelity, he challenges his best friends to tell him the name of the guy, do they protect their friend or reveal his name to their neighbor and friend? You have to see it.
We enjoyed it, will go with 4.5 rip curls. Best movie of the year, still early in the year!