Hawaii is equivalent to Heaven. That is the idea of the general public. And to live in Hawaii is an indicator of success, wealth, and a wonderful life. Of course, the general public tends to overrate the lives of others so that they can complain about their own. And The Descendants brings this to light.
Matt King (George Clooney) is an Hawaiian resident whose wife is put into a coma after a boating accident. The family has been given hope, and are all thinking positively about her recovery, until the doctor pulls Matt aside to tell him that she’s not going to make it.
With the time to pull the plug nearing, Matt and his daughters Alex (Shailene Woodley) and Scottie (Amara Miller) are given the job of traveling around the island to tell all their relatives of her condition.
Meanwhile, Matt as trustee of his extended family’s plot of untouched Hawaiian land, must make a decision about selling it. And yet is he having second thoughts?
The movie is a comedy/tragedy, which you wouldn’t expect to work and yet it kind of does. The emotion put forth by Clooney was incredibly powerful, and the inner conflict his character must have been feeling is hugely apparent. Why would he be conflicted? I won’t spoil it for you.
Another, more humorous element would be the controversial nature of Sid (Nick Krause), Alex’s “beach dude” friend who comes along for the ride. Although he may laugh at some inappropriate moments, he is a well-made blend of awkward humor and misunderstanding. You’d think that this character could turn the whole film corny, and yet, somehow, he only improves upon the acting, perhaps by providing a stereotypical beach boy to conflict with the always on edge Matt.
The teenager Alex, the only one of the three supporting characters who really knows what is going on, has an interesting outlook too. Her father was never there for her and her sister, so they grew a little spoiled. We first meet her drunk and falling over, having snuck outside her boarding school at night. All of a sudden, this girl has to grow up and deal with being the only reasonable confidant that Matt has.
And of course, there’s the little sister Scottie, who is kept blissfully unaware of her mother’s unrecoverable status. Scottie is an interesting character. She is a swearing, disrespectful little child who learned to imitate her big sister’s bad behavior. But although Alex became more serious after she learned of her mother’s condition, Scottie proudly displays the effect that her sister has had on her.
As for age appropriateness… No. At one point Scottie (who is only ten, by the way) calls her sister a “Motherless Ho.” Enough said. Still, the thing that bugs me about the MPAA is that kids our age (13, 14) aren’t saints ourselves, especially those of us who live in Los Angeles. So although it’s understandable that parents don’t want such language and themes, it is an inevitable phase, so we might as well accept it.
However, don’t take a ten or eleven year old kid to this. The kid who swears is THEIR age, and that could turn out to be pretty problematic.
Age Recommendation: 13, 14+.
Final Verdict: A humorous tear-dropper. The kids were a little on the edgy side, but other than that it’s great. 9/10.
The Descendants has been nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture; George Clooney for Best Actor; Alexander Payne for Best Director; plus nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Achievement in Film Editing.