Writers: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller
In a year where most of the movies have focused on superheroes, wizards, and vampires it has been rare to find a relatable film. The Descendants sticks out to me as one of the most real movies I have seen in quite some time. Set in Hawaii, George Clooney plays Matt King, the distanced father in a fairly dysfunctional family. Clooney’s wife is in a coma due to a boating accident. During her time in the hospital King realizes how disconnected he is from his wife and two daughters: the hyperactive younger daughter Scottie (Amara Miller), and her older sister Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) who was sent away to boarding school for drugs and alcohol. At the same time King is in charge of deciding who he will sell his land to before the trust brakes up. This land has been owned by his family for decades and is considered the last piece of virgin Hawaiian beach. Clooney’s opening lines for the movie that living in Hawaii is not living in vacation sets an accurate tone for the whole movie.
George Clooney (as per usual) stole the show. You feel and experience his pain throughout the movie. Clooney plays up a similar tone in The Descendants as he evoked in Up in the Air (2009), in which we unfortunately realize how much everyday life can stink. After watching this year’s film I realized how well Clooney plays the everyday man. This is not as easy as it sounds. My biggest surprise of the movie was actress Shailene Woodley. Many know her from her ABC Family tv show, The Secret Life of the American Teenager which to put lightly: is awful. In The Descendants Woodley shows what she can really do as an actor. We are first introduced to her character as the angsty teenager that you think you are going to hate. However I was quickly proved wrong. Woodley embraced Alexandra and made her one of my favorite characters. She understood and explored her character’s past and her troubles, making her relatable and entertaining. This also tells me she does her homework as an actress, which definitely impresses me.
At this point I am sure that I made it clear that I loved this movie. Everything fit from the costumes to the music to the decision for the story to be set in Hawaii (because of the contrast between the bleak urban setting that the King family lives in to the beautiful beaches that surround them yet are out of reach). Trust me on this one: this is not the last you have heard of The Descendants.
Is the movie an Oscar contender? No.
Am I sorry I saw it? Hell, no! It has 5 Golden Globe nods.
Should I wait until DVD? No. See it now.
A random reason to see the movie: Everything.
If you still don’t believe me, read Entertainment Weekly’s review: