“The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.” ~ C.C. Scott
The weather in the Bay Area has been rainy and windy and cold which makes it miserable to spend any amount of time outdoors. So, why not make the best of it and watch movies? Brian and I don’t visit the theaters very often but since so many films make it to Pay-Per-View so quickly now, we get to watch them in the comfort of our home on our big, flat screen TV. Popcorn and pots of tea abound as we find entertainment in our living room.
We rented The Descendants this weekend, starring handsome (and somewhat serious) George Clooney. I don’t think I have seen Clooney in a film lately where he actually smiles or laughs. He seems to take very intense and serious roles after his comedy stints with the Cohen Brothers and The Ocean Eleven films. It’s too bad, as he has such a wonderful smile. Debonair George – a modern day Cary Grant, in my opinion!
The Descendants has an intriguing plot. Clooney plays Matt King, a real-estate attorney living on the island of Oahu, Hawaii and a descendent of an extended Hawaiian family. He is now the sole trustee of a big chunk of very valuable land on the island of Kauai and the whole family of cousins is depending on him to agree to sell off the land to make them all rich. But Matt has more pressing things on his mind. His wife, Elizabeth (Patricia Hastle) lay in coma on life-support in a hospital bed as the result of a devastating boating accident. Matt is now trying to deal with the possibility of losing Elizabeth and being a single parent to two challenging daughters, with whom he has no true relationship. He was the father who was always working – away on business – and doesn’t have a clue as how to deal with 10-year old Scottie (Amara Miller) and 17-year old Alex (Shailene Woodley). Woodley gives a flawless performance as the troubled and rebellious teenager who pretends to hate everything about her parents. We get to watch her flourish and mature as she realizes and understands where she fits into the whole family dynamic. Both girls have their own issues and dad has to figure out how to keep them on the right track while working full-time, arranging the big land deal and preparing himself for the worst with his wife’s deteriorating condition.
Then there is another complication. Matt discovers that his now brain-dead wife was cheating on him with some real estate dude on Kauai and he sets out to find the guy and confront him or just satisfy his curiosity? There is some humor thrown in here when Matt starts to bond with the snarky and challenging older daughter, Alex, as they join forces in search of the “other man”. Matt always seems to be pretty composed on the outside but we do get glimpses of the torment inside and Clooney’s performance is incredibly believable as a man just teetering on the edge.
One of the highlights of this movie is Alex’s friend, Sid, played to a tee by Nick Krause, as the laid- back dude-of-a-boyfriend who accompanies them on their visits to the grandparents’ house, the hospital and their trips to Kauai to stalk Elizabeth’s secret lover. At first you might think Sid is just a wise-ass kind of kid but it turns out that he is a sympathetic and likable character who loyally sticks with Matt and the girls throughout all their trials and tribulations and manages to hold his own while helping to keep the peace between the King family members.
The movie has some slow spots and isn’t perfect, but through Alexander Payne’s (Sideways) insightful direction, we get to see these ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances in a very realistic manner. He manages to establish the disposition of his characters very early on and unfolds their fragile, complex layers of vulnerability and sorrow as the story progresses. It makes us feel as if we, too, are going along on their emotional ride.
Movie Review by Liz Berry Wagner