The Descendants

Does everyone in Hawaii really wear Hawaii shirts?

“The Descendants” has been in cinemas for what seems forever. So I thought I’d catch it on its way out. Because it’s not exactly the freshest pick I’ll restrict myself to the briefest of reviews.

Matt King (George Clooney) is the titular descendant. The film interweaves two stories: Matt’s dealing with the traumatic impending loss of his comatose wife, and the sale of a large chunk of Hawaii property that has been in his family’s hands for centuries.

After a boating accident leaves his wife in a coma, lawyer Matt is forced to take care of his two daughters for the first time. After his troubled eldest daughter reveals the reason behind her warlike relationship with her mother, this storyline really takes off.

It is this narrative, of Matt forming a new and stronger bond with his children and overcoming the double blow of grief and betrayal that really pull us through the film. To say more would be to venture into spoiler territory….

The second storyline, the selling of a huge swathe of (once tribal) land, is a handy plot device and is wrapped up well enough. Still, I never really felt any real sense of urgency. In this aspect the film is flawed.

Some further notes of criticism: the movie starts with a long, rather corny voice-over by Clooney. In it he explains all manner of back story, which as the film proceeds is explained again by more filmic methods. The first 20 minutes of the film are therefore extremely trying.

In fact, for me the movie only really starts the moment the eldest daughter. Alexandra, becomes part of the story. Shailene Woodley plays this troubled teen and for me was the absolute star of the picture. With the other cast members putting in professional but unremarkable performances.

Over all, a fine film for a rainy evening at home. Oh, yes, almost forgot to answer the leading question: in this movie, yes.