I love a good, sadly funny movie and The Descendants really fit the bill. Armed with popcorn and a few tissues, I was ready to take it on. The premise has Matt King (George Clooney) living in Hawaii and with two difficult daughters and a wife on life support after a boating accident. To add to his burden, King is a Hawaiian land baron, tasked with decision of what to do with 25,000 acres of paradise on Kauai. The sole decision-maker of many royalty-descended cousins, he must choose to keep the land unspoiled or sell, making all the cousins extremely wealthy and sharing the land with the world, albeit through resorts and golf courses.
The two daughters are maladjusted, wild kids. Shailene Woodley plays irreverent teenager, Alexandra, with a penchant for drinking, drugging, older men, and cursing at her father. Amara Miller makes her film debut as younger daughter, Scottie, who is equally disrespectful to her father. Rounding out their little group is Sid (played by Nick Krause) who provides much-appreciated comic relief. You root for every flawed character and realize that living in this beautiful Hawaiian paradise does not mean life is a vacation.
When King finds out his wife was unfaithful, he has to express his grief and work through it on his own. There are several scenes where the family talks to Elizabeth, while she lies comatose hooked up to machines. Mouth agape and pallid complexion, Patricia Hastie was the silent and unmoving actress the story rotated around.
Without giving away much more, there are plenty of opportunities to laugh and a few to cry. This may be George Clooney’s strongest role yet, his eyes expressing a genuine pain that makes me want him to get married. And it doesn’t get better than watching Hawaii as a backdrop.