“The Descendants” with George Clooney, Beau Bridges, Nick Krause, Robert Forster, Matthew Lillard, and Shailene Woodley takes place in Hawaii. Matt King (Clooney), a wealthy workaholic lawyer, is trustee of an inherited 25,000 acre Kaua’i land trust, which he and his cousins (one of which is Bridges) are planning to sell off to developers. Descendants of a Hawaiian princess, the King family is well known around the islands and the selling off of precious, native land does not sit well with the locals on Kaua’i or elsewhere.
However, the main theme is the King family drama and angst. Matt’s wife, Elizabeth, is in an irreversible coma after a boating accident and will be taken off life support, leaving him in charge of his two daughters, neither of which he knows anything about. After bringing her home from an expensive boarding school, his rebellious, foul-mouthed, 17-year-old daughter Alex (Woodley) tells him that her dying mother was having an affair. (The first time the teen cussed the entire audience gasped; they gasped several times, actually. I inwardly frowned.) Ten-year-old Scottie is adrift without her mother and has learned some nasty words and finger signs from her older sibling. Also in the mix is Sid (Krause), Alex’s boyfriend, who becomes part of the broken family, and Elizabeth’s parents. Her mother has senile dementia, while her father (Forster) thinks she’s the perfect daughter/wife/mother.
Totally asea with regards to being a father and handling startling news, Matt depends on Alex for guidance with Scottie and the lover, Brian Speer (Lillard), making her an ally and a buddy all in one. School becomes irrelevant during the entire crisis and the family, including Sid, puddle-jumps from island to island for various reasons.
Two-thirds through the film, there is a funny/sad/angry confrontation with Speer, a realtor who turns out to be married with children and will benefit by the land sale. In fact, throughout “The Descendants,” we were ping-ponged around between laughing and crying, being affronted and being angry, which was not the comedy we were expecting. (Okay, Danny never cried but he became thoughtful and solemn. 🙂 )
By the end of the film you totally understand the dynamics of each character, which makes it very satisfying. You also hope the new-found togetherness will lead to more respectful language by all.
Rating: 3.2 out of 5 stars.