The Descendants was one of last year’s best reviewed films. It was nominated for multiple Oscars, including Best Picture, and won for Best Adapted Screenplay. In the film, Matt King (George Clooney) is struggling to handle his two daughters while his wife is in a coma, only to find out his wife had been carrying on an affair at the time of her accident. He then decides to track down his wife’s lover to confront him and to let him know she is dying. He also finds out that this man is connected to a land deal that the King family is orchestrating. I had been intrigued by the film because I generally enjoy Clooney’s film choice and liked what I heard about the script.
If you see this film with a significant other, don’t be surprised if you have a long talk with them about what you’d both do if put in Clooney’s shoes. To find out that he is losing his wife and that she had been unfaithful in such a short span of time, it’s amazing he holds it together as well as he does! While Clooney’s character is very honest about not being the perfect father or husband, you can’t help but be behind him as he tries to find his way. The scene where he confronts his wife, while in a coma, about the affair is really perfect. You leave the scene thinking, yes, that’s exactly what I’d do in that situation. Also, his desire to make her lover uncomfortable and demanding answers is very relatable. Also love the scene where he confronts their best married couple friends. Love that the husband is willing to tell Clooney the truth, despite his wife’s protests. Also liked the choice with having Clooney being so cruel to the wife, punishing her in a way he can’t hurt his own. My favorite moment is when Clooney is clear about to say “who she was sleeping with” and can’t get it out, instead saying “who she was seeing”. Showing how hard it is for him to wrap his head around this new reality is great writing, great acting, and what great movies are about.
George Clooney is in that club of actors who really could have coasted by on his good looks but chose not to. While he did dip his toe into action movies early on, it’s clear that he wants more out of his craft. He also frequently uses his name to bring awareness to important causes. The George Clooney of today certainly couldn’t be accused of doing anything just for the paycheck.
I also really liked Judy Greer’s character. The scene where she comes to the hospital because she felt someone from her family should and her cheating husband wouldn’t, really struck me. The character comes off as such a nice lady; you really hate Matthew Lillard’s character for screwing up everybody’s life. I think one of the most interesting bits on information about the affair is that Clooney’s wife was preparing to leave him for Lillard (bet Lillard didn’t see himself stealing George Clooney’s wife any time in his career) but to Lillard, this was nothing serious. He was never going to end his marriage for this woman. He fights to keep the affair a secret, even when finding out the other woman is dying. One of life’s jokes, you could be willing to throw your whole life away for someone who wouldn’t even visit you on your death bed.
One thing I was pleasantly surprised about was the development of the character Sid. When you first meet him, he seems like he’s going to be pretty annoying but eventually he shows enough substance and has enough insight on the situation to make him kind of likeable. You can even see Clooney being won over.
The film is set in Hawaii, which was fun for me because that’s where I went for my honeymoon last year. It’s an absolutely beautiful place but when you do a little research about full-time life in Hawaii, it’s not so nice. Everything is super expensive because it costs a lot to get there and the state has the lowest average salary in the United States. Plus, most jobs are in hospitality, so you get paid crap to pamper people with more money than you. I found a lot of Clooney’s “fuck paradise” sentiment to be pretty spot on. Plus, the scene where they are in the bar and he says that even the most powerful people look like stuntmen and bums, totally true.
I wish we got to know Clooney’s wife a little better. I know she’s in a coma for the entire film, but we never learn much about her besides that she was something of a risk taker and she inspired strong feelings, with some of the characters adoring her and other being pretty pissed at her. I also feel that the middle of the film is a bit sluggish, as if it doesn’t know what to do. I haven’t read the novel the script is based on so maybe it’s indicative of the source material. Despite these minor complaints, The Descendants is a honest film about a situation we all hope we will never be in.
Fun Fact: One of the Oscar winning screenwriters plays the dean on the show Community.